How to improve your vehicle’s gas mileage with these 10 tips

Gas prices are absolutely wild right now, demolishing all-time records for the highest costs ever seen at the pump in the US. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the national average price for a gallon of fuel today is $5.00—up 62 percent from $3.08 just a year ago. The United States set its record average price per gallon of fuel on June 14 at $5.01.

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Worse, experts don’t expect the situation to improve until at least November, when May start seeing prices below $4 at the gas station. Mainly, Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine is to blame for the sharp price rises, as Russia is a major oil exporter, but inflation is also to blame.

With that in mind, it’s time to evaluate your options behind the wheel, as there’s not much you can do about the numbers at the pump. To find the best expert-backed tips for increasing your car’s fuel economy, we spoke with David Bennett, AAA Repair Systems Manager.

Tip #1: Get the trash out of your trunk

If you’ve been a little lazy with those stubborn garbage bags full of Goodwill donations in your trunk, or stashing heavy tools in your truck bed from your last side job, it’s time to shed the dead weight. The more weight your vehicle has, the more rolling resistance it will experience, which means the car will need more work to move, says Bennett. Popular Mechanics. “Anything you can do to reduce vehicle weight will help you get the best fuel economy you can,” he explains.

Tip No. 2: Don’t roll down the windows, use the air conditioning

Maybe you grew up with parents who told you to roll down the windows when it’s hot outside; that may have been sage advice in the 1960s or 1970s, but now it’s as outdated an idea as a 1973 Pontiac Grand Am. According to Bennett, it’s more efficient for most people to drive with the windows up, depending on the vehicle. vehicle’s air conditioning to cool down instead of the breeze.

“Engines are better designed today to be able to handle the load of the air conditioning compressor,” he says. The air conditioning systems of vintage cars really made drain the engine, decreasing fuel economy, but that’s a relic of the past.

Tip #3: Avoid putting your car in neutral

You won’t get better fuel economy by putting your car in neutral to coast down the highway, says Bennett. Not only is it dangerous to do so (when the vehicle isn’t running, it’s impossible to avoid a car swerving in front of you, for example), it also won’t save you much fuel. All you’re really doing is disconnecting the transmission. This is commonly confused with the advice below.

Tip No. 4: Turn off your engine if it stops for more than a minute

While coasting in neutral to a red light isn’t helpful for saving fuel, turning off the engine in situations where it will stop for more than one light cycle is a good move, says Bennett; otherwise, you will waste gasoline. So don’t just park your car while you’re stuck in traffic due to an accident up ahead: turn off the engine. Newer cars even come with an eco mode that closes the throttle to reduce gas input to the cylinder.

And this really makes a difference: AAA estimates that your engine consumes ¼ to ½ gallon of fuel every hour it’s idling.

Tip #5: Make acceleration easy

Cautious drivers, it’s time to change your ways. Avoiding “hard starts” is a sure way to increase fuel economy, says Bennett.

“As you come to a stop, take your foot off the accelerator sooner and allow the vehicle to stop, and let inertia slow you down instead of slamming on the brakes at the last second,” he explains. . “You’re not starting out in a drag race.”

Tip No. 6: Slow down

Fuel economy tops out around 50 miles per hour, then drops off as you continue to accelerate. Slowing down on the freeway from five to ten miles per hour could increase your fuel economy by as much as 14 percent, according to AAA.

Tip #7: Properly inflate your tires

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, a plaque located on the inside of the driver’s side door, to find the optimum tire pressure for your vehicle, expressed in units of PSI (pounds per square inch). Just be careful not to over- or over-inflate those tires, warns Bennett. Over-inflation causes more rolling resistance, which leads you to spend more gas. Under-inflation wears out the tire tread, which could cost you more in the long run if you need a replacement.

Tip #8: Pay attention to octane ratings and use “higher tier” fuel where available

When you’re at the gas station, be selective about your choice of fuel. You should always use the correct octane number for your specific make and model of car, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines in your owner’s manual, says Bennett. Octane numbers are measures of fuel stability, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The ratings (see below) are “based on the pressure at which a fuel will spontaneously combust (self-ignite) in a test engine,” the EIA says. The higher the octane, the more stable the fuel. Depending on which gas station you pull up to, the names of these fuel grades may look a little different (unleaded, super, super premium), but they all refer to octane:

  • Regular: the lowest octane fuel, usually 87
  • middle grade: mid-octane fuel, usually 89 or 90
  • Premium: higher octane fuel, usually 91-94

Manufacturers are increasingly recommending the use of higher-octane fuels in newer cars, says Bennett, but if it’s a recommendation and not a requirement, Skip it. For example, sports cars, high-end luxury vehicles, and those with turbochargers often require higher-octane fuel, and in those cases, you should use that type of gasoline. But if you’re driving a regular sedan, like a Volkswagen Jetta, your owner’s manual probably lists regular fuel as a requirement and premium fuel as a recommendation. Go with regular fuel, says Bennett, because “you won’t see a significant difference” in fuel economy, but premium fuel costs more.

But there’s a very important caveat here: Don’t confuse “premium gas” with “premium gas,” says Bennett.

Premium Tier Fuel is a “tier 1 fuel performance specification developed and enforced by major automotive and heavy-duty equipment manufacturers.” depending on the company of the same name, based in Midland, Michigan. Top Tier fuel helps keep your car’s engine cleaner with a detergent additive “that prevents carbon deposits from forming inside the engine,” says Bennett. Look for the TOP TIER™ logo on the pump to find this type of fuel. You can also use the location tool on the Top Tier website to find the nearest retail station that offers it.

Tip No. 9: Keep your vehicle in good condition

This should go without saying, but if you see a check engine light on your vehicle information panel, you should have the car inspected and repaired as soon as possible. “Proper vehicle maintenance will ensure you get good fuel economy while the vehicle is operating at peak performance,” says Bennett.

Tip No. 10: Drive the vehicle that makes the most sense

If you’re lucky enough to have multiple vehicles, drive the one with the best fuel economy. So if you have a classic car that you usually take out for a Sunday cruise, that’s fine, but don’t make a habit of it. If you own a motorcycle, and are properly licensed and able to take a safe route, you may want to go with those two wheels as they get better gas mileage.

As for Bennett? He has two cars on rotation: a 2007 Acura MDX and a 2017 Acura ILX. He drives both equally, he says, since his office is just four miles from his house.

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