The average Joe's quest to conquer glutinous, glugging fuel is akin to sending a toothless spinster to combat Gerard Butler in the cinematic masterpiece, 300. Beef up the fight with these ten top tips for improving gas mileage.
Maintain & Clean
A clogged engine can reduce fuel efficiency by ten, twenty, or even thirty percent! Common mechanical culprits include grimy air filters, which can cut efficiency up to 20%, and filthy spark plugs, which may be responsible for a 12% decrease. Regularly service and check these components. Also, religiously replace the oil every 3,000 miles using the prescribed motor oil. A less common offender, but deadly enemy nonetheless, is a worn-down transmission, as inefficient gear changes can drastically slash fuel economy. Some vehicles may benefit from commuting on the highway in overdrive gear, which slows the engine's revolutions and conserves energy in the form of heat.
Get rid of excess materials - in the inside and on the outside. Toss unused storage consoles, old lawn chairs, bags of clothing bound for a long-overdue Goodwill drop-off, and other free-loading items. After all, why carry an umbrella during the summer? Apply the same principle to the exterior. Idle bike racks and roof trunks are not only useless, but ugly. While tail spoilers may appear stylish, they add to wind resistance and may diminish fuel economy by 1-2 mpg.
A considerable amount of squandered gas is spent searching for the perfect parking spot – away from teenage ratrods, under a shade tree and above all, mere feet from the entrance. Choose the closest available parking area and park facing the thoroughfare so as gas is not wasted by reversing out of the parking spot. Most importantly, refuse to rev the engine at every parking lot stop-sign and crosswalk. Coast everywhere possible.
This is a basic hypermiling technique. Drive on the highway with the right tires juxtaposed to the side lines. It not only alerts other drivers who otherwise would think the hypermiler is drunk, it also gives the wheels better traction during precipitation.
Bear the Weather
The weather is concurrently friend and foe. When warm weather blows free, it keeps the engine balmy and happy but also tempts the driver to turn on the A/C - a frequent foe in the battle against low fuel economy. Santa's snowy breath chills the gasoline in gas station reservoirs, increasing viscosity and giving more for less, but sends the engine into perpetual hibernation. And like the hibernating bear, it is quite unpleasant when awakened.
Slow Down & Save
There are two cold, hard facts of existence. One: taxes are inevitable; two: automobiles are most efficient at a snail-paced 55 mph. Due to wind resistance, fuel efficiency decreases exponentially after 55 mph. While the cost is minuscule at 60 mph (a 3% decrease), it rises to 17% at 70 mph, 23% at 75 and a whopping 28% at 80 mph! Also, when driving on the highway, use cruise control to keep the tempo calm and controlled. On uneven terrain, do not use cruise control, as it mirrors a 15-year old experiencing his first road rage.
Turn it Off
Waiting for friends or red lights does not entail wasting fuel. If the red light lasts more than twenty-five seconds, turn off the engine. If the friend is a procrastinator, turn it off.
Tires can be a mpg VIP. Regularly check tire air pressure. Under-inflated or over-inflated tires are frequently responsible for poor fuel mileage. Also, if you’re not off-roading in the Ozark Hills or burrowing through the Sierras, do not use 4-wheel drive. Finally, try radial tires. They can improve fuel economy by 2-3%.
When driving on the interstate, follow the three-second rule. Select a stationary marker and count to three after the vehicle in front passes it. Stay at least that distance from that vehicle. By doing so, there is more time to respond when the other automobile brakes, which leaves the opportunity to gently coast - and thereby save gas - while the other driver fumbles with the pedals. With commuting in urban areas, gradually accelerate from stop to stop and slowly roll through stop-signs and T-intersections.
Buy a More Fuel Efficient Vehicle
Even after abiding by all the above suggestions, a Ford Econoline will not compete with a Honda Civic. Buying a fuel efficient vehicle can save the average driver more than a thousand dollars every year. Hybrids, including the GMC Sierra Hybrid, Toyota Prius and Ford Focus Hybrid, are entrenching themselves in the market, and the spread of fuel efficient technology, including i-VTEC, VCM (Variable Cylinder Management) and direct electronic fuel injection, consistently raises the bar for fuel economy.
Don't allow gas-guzzling giants to greedily glug and chug; carefully coast your way to success.