Five Simple Tips to Improve Fuel Economy
One of the many reasons people choose a hybrid or electric vehicle is to save on fuel. But, getting a new car (or at least replacing your current car) can come with a high cost, and you may not be ready to make the leap to new technology. There may be a lot of life left in your current vehicle, you might not be in a financial situation to purchase something new – or the car you want may not be available yet.
There are still plenty of things you can do to save money on fuel with your current vehicle. Here are five tips that will help you save fuel – no matter what you drive!
Have a Look at Your Car
If it’s been a while since you’ve given your car a good cleaning, you’d be surprised at just how much extra weight you might be carrying around. All of the junk in your trunk that you never use is literally dragging you down – and consuming precious fuel. Go through your car’s interior and trunk and get rid of the stuff you don’t need to have with you while driving, and you can incrementally improve your fuel economy.
If you have roof rails, bike racks, and other exterior accessories, remove them if you’re not actually using them. Roof rails, boxes, and racks have a massive effect on your car’s aerodynamics and thus its fuel economy. You’ve probably noticed that when driving your car with all of these accessories installed that your car has to work a bit harder, and you hear a bit more wind noise – that’s a direct result of their negative impact on how smoothly your car slips through the air. Only install accessories when you’re actually going to need them.
Finally, check your tire pressures, which can have a significant impact on how much fuel you use. Your car is set up to run efficiently at the tire pressures set from the factory, and if one or more of your tires is low, they can cause extra drag on the drivetrain that directly impacts fuel consumption. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this can make.
Anticipation is Key
We use a lot of unnecessary fuel when we’re driving because we’re constantly reacting to the situations around us: braking, steering, and accelerating to avoid obstacles, getting in front of someone at the lights. Gasoline cars are at their most efficient when they are cruising at their optimum engine speed; braking means you’re wiping away energy as heat that you’ll need to regain by accelerating – and acceleration, of course, uses far more fuel than cruising. That’s why you’ll see much higher MPG ratings from the EPA for highway driving than for city driving on every gasoline vehicle.
Anticipating situations that will arise while driving means you’ll spend less time reacting by braking, accelerating, and steering. If you can sense what is about to happen several hundred feet up the road, you can adjust your driving accordingly so that you don’t need to use unnecessary fuel.
Doing so is actually quite easy: simply look further up the road. Human nature is to look at what’s just in front of us (we were, after all, “designed” to walk not drive), so we’re not accustomed to looking much further ahead. By getting our eyes up, and seeing what’s happening further up the road, we can anticipate developing situations sooner – which makes us safer drivers as well as more efficient drivers.
Smooth is Efficient
Which brings us to our next topic – smoothness. By looking up and planning ahead, you’ll be able to drive much more smoothly, with gentler throttle, brake, and steering inputs. Use smaller throttle openings to build up speed over a longer period of time, which uses less fuel than stomping on the gas when you suddenly see an opening in traffic. Similarly, if you can anticipate the need to slow down, you can lift off the throttle earlier and coast or use engine braking instead of having to slam on the brakes.
Use Driver Assists
Most modern cars come with a wide range of assistance technology to help you drive more safely – as well as more efficiently. The most common one is cruise control – use it when you’re on the highway to set your desired speed and your car will handle speeding up and slowing down smoothly while maintaining your set speed. On top of that, active cruise control can maintain a set distance from the car in front of you, keeping a safe following distance, and slowing down to maintain space automatically. You’d be surprised at how much fuel you’ll save by using cruise control.
Depending on your vehicle, you may have access to a navigation system that features real-time traffic information as well. These systems can alert you of traffic delays and route you around them, saving you time as well as the aggravation of sitting in traffic, burning unnecessary fuel. Because when you’re not moving, you’re getting zero miles per gallon.
Finally, and this one may seem obvious – slow down! You’d be surprised at the difference a few miles an hour makes in terms of fuel economy. In fact, the original reason that the 55-mph speed limit was introduced in the 1970s was to save gasoline during the fuel crisis. Slowing down your highway cruising speed by 5 MPH will have a significant impact on your fuel consumption – and you may discover that you’re more relaxed as well.