Quick Tips to Improve Your Fuel Economy

By Jason Davis | February 24, 2012
Unless you've been in hiding, or drive an electric vehicle, you may have noticed that gas prices have risen sharply over the past couple weeks. I have, but I also commute 85 miles a day in an enthusiast-tuned sport wagon. It's not the most fuel-efficient car on the road, but despite big power gains from the small, turbo-charged engine, I, like many commuters, have had to adjust my driving habits to improve my fuel economy. (Hey, we auto journo's don’t make that much!) While the gas price increases come every year as the weather warms, it seems that people are now more alarmed, or the sensationalist pundits are latching onto it as another election-year talking point. Regardless, the average American household will spend $3,325 to power their vehicles this year. Here in Southern California, we're already seeing more than $4.50 a gallon for premium! "We cannot control the many factors that cause oil and gasoline prices to fluctuate," said Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan, "but we can minimize our own fuel use with proper vehicle maintenance and smart driving habits." Maintenance:
  • You probably already know that improperly inflated tires can cost you up to 3.3-percent of your tank's mileage. Nothing new here, just another reminder.
  • Engine doesn't sound right? Never made it to the major 100,000 mile tune-up? Get your car service and tuned, and increase fuel economy by an average of 4-percent; if you have a serious maintenance issue, your mileage may increase by as much as 40-percent!
  • Check your oil, and the factory manual. If you're not using the factory-recommended grade of motor oil, your mileage can be off by as much as 1- to 2-percent.
  • Get ridda yo junk in da trunk. Yes, most Americans could probably afford to shed a few pounds, but so can your cars. Alliance recommends that you avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle, as an extra 100 pounds could reduce mileage by up to 2-percent.
Be Fuel Economy Conscious:
  • Slow down.  According to the DOE, each 5 mph over 60 mph "is like paying an additional 29 cents per gallon."
  • Even if you keep your speed low, don't get to that low speed in a hurry. Rapid acceleration and braking can lower fuel economy by 33-percent at highway speeds and by 5-percent around town.
  • If you shift it yourself, or have an overdrive, keep your vehicle's engine speed lower by using the top gear and overdrive where possible.
  • Plan your errands and route to avoid backtracking.
  • Avoid traffic where possible, as idling can waste a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour.
  • Use Automotive.com's local gas prices tool to find the lowest price in your area.
Source: The Wall Street Journal: Market Watch
Chris K
Chris K

I love the Automotive.com local gas prices section, even though it makes it obvious how much more we have to pay for gas here than in the rest of the country... Let's just hope Iran doesn't actual pull out the saber it's been rattling. If they attempt to block the Straight of Hormuz (they won't be able to, but they might try), or if Israel (and by proxy us) start bombing them, imaging your gas prices to be pretty crazy.