How to get better gas mileage

On the Road 3 min read

While gas prices aren’t as high as they were in 2008, when many drivers were paying more than $4 a gallon, the price you pay at the pump is slowly creeping up again. People are trading in their old gas-guzzling SUVs for more fuel-efficient models, but when that isn’t enough, they start looking for new ways to improve fuel economy.

Here are some easy-to-follow tips to help you get better gas mileage, no matter what you’re driving.

1. Get a tune-up

Even if you don’t turn the wrench yourself, dirty oil, clogged air filters, and plugged fuel filters can all lessen your car’s fuel economy. Head to your favorite mechanic and get a tune-up.

In this same vein, make sure you address check engine lights quickly. Most parts stores will pull the code for you for free, and many of the problems this light can indicate can mess with your miles per gallon. A faulty oxygen sensor, EGR valve, or fuel injector can lessen your fuel economy as well.

2. Don’t speed

If you’re on the highway, it seems like everyone is speeding and you might find yourself struggling to keep up. Don’t. Driving faster makes your engine work harder, burning more fuel. Increasing your speed from 55 to 75 not only increases your chances of getting a ticket—but it also lowers your fuel economy by up to 20%. Drive slower where it’s safe to do so. Your wallet will thank you the next time you fill up.

3. Use fuel additives

You might not need an octane booster, but fuel-cleaning additives can help boost your gas mileage. Use one of these products on your next trip to the gas pump to help keep the sediments and impurities that accumulate in your tank from clogging up your fuel injectors.

4. Watch your RPMs

How often do you look at your car’s tachometer? This gauge tells you how many RPMs, or revolutions per minute, your engine is generating. Keeping that number low—below 3,000 RPMs where possible—can help improve your gas mileage because you’re not burning as much fuel. It’s the same tactic truck drivers are using to improve the fuel economy of their big rigs. Traditional tractor-trailers had to generate at least 1,350 RPMs—anything less was risky, but it left them with a fuel economy rating of about six miles per gallon. Today, that number is up to eight to 12 miles per gallon, and trucks run at under 1,000 RPMs to stretch that fuel a little bit further.

5. Keep moving

You burn more gas when you’re idling, or during stop-and-go driving, than you do while you’re moving. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam, you’re better off shutting the engine down and restarting it when you start driving again if you want to save fuel. A good rule of thumb? If you’re going to be at an idle for more than 10 seconds, turn off your engine.

6. Use cruise control

Most modern cars have cruise control. If you’re on a highway, or anywhere that doesn’t have a lot of stop-and-go traffic, use it. It keeps you at a steady speed, so you’re not burning more fuel by accelerating or decelerating.

7. Check your tire pressure

Keeping your tires properly inflated is essential. Not only does it ensure the tires can properly grip the road and provide traction, it helps your car’s gas mileage. Underinflated tires can lower your fuel efficiency up to 3%, which adds up quickly if you’re driving a lot between fill-ups. Keep a pressure gauge in your glove compartment and check your owner’s manual or the sticker in your door jamb to figure out what pressure your tires need to be at.

Stay safe on the road

If you take care of your car, it will take care of you. Keep it moving, avoid idling whenever possible, and make sure you’re getting regular tune-ups to improve your gas mileage.

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