There are two major categories in fuel savings:
Anticipate, use your brakes less, and don’t accelerate quickly. Look far down the road ahead, even if “far” is a city block. Get into turn-lanes smoothly and early: avoid accelerating to get in front of traffic. Anticipate stops or slow-downs ahead and take your foot off the gas: try to coast much more than you brake. Additional coasting distance saves fuel and extends brake-pad life. Remember: he who leaves the stoplight quickest pays more at the pump.
Use Cruise Control. It saves fuel and speeding tickets. But it’s not just for cruising. The “Resume” button can give you decent acceleration without wasting fuel.
Overdrive and gear selection. If your automatic has Overdrive, use it. If you have a manual transmission, shift early to keep engine rpm’s lower and always use the highest gear for highway cruising.
Slow down. As you increase speed above 60 mph, wind resistance increases rapidly as a percentage of total fuel consumption. Typically, every mile over 60 mph costs you ~1% in fuel economy.
Carefully consider your route and the time of day: traffic flow is a huge factor. For example, say that the space between vehicles averages 3 to 4 car lengths, typical of traffic in many large cities along your interstate travel route. If it’s stop-and-go, fuel economy will be bad. But if traffic is moving smoothly and fast (at 60 – 80 mph), fuel economy can be superb: those rushing vehicles create a jet-stream of air that dramatically reduces wind-drag losses. Up to 30% gains are possible. For maximum fuel economy, follow a larger vehicle and use cruise control. Also, keep in mind wind direction: if the wind blows strongly from the right and you’re in the right lane, you’ll get NO break in wind resistance from vehicles ahead.
Plan and Combine errands to make fewer trips. Think as your great-grandparents did. Plan meals and grocery shop once a week to once a month: make a list of other errands during the week, plan your route, and do it all in the same trip. Arrange with other parents to carpool or pick up the kids for you. Such planning may seem like work at first, but it frees up time, helps you relax, and can improve your average fuel economy by 5 to 15%. It can also cut your average weekly miles by 20% or more. Total dollar potential: save 10-35% of monthly fuel costs. How does this help fuel the economy? During the first several miles, while warming up, the engine and transmission are not operating efficiently. This is why city fuel economy can drop dramatically in cold weather when it can take 10 miles for the engine and transmission to warm up. In particular, automatic transmissions can be power hogs when fluid is cold, and manual transmissions can feel like you’re shifting in molasses. (Hot/cold temperatures are one of many reasons to use a full-synthetic 100,000-mile transmission fluid). Combining two or three trips into one reduces the miles you drive and gets you better fuel economy.
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Use air conditioning wisely: – Keep your windows rolled up at speeds over 40 mph: the air turbulence around the window makes the air-conditioning cheaper than the fuel-economy penalty from additional wind-drag. – Turn off the air and roll down windows at speeds under 40 mph in the summer heat: the additional wind-drag is cheaper than the air-conditioning. Fuel economy impact? ~ 1-5%.
Buy fuel wisely. Ok, this isn’t actually improving your fuel economy, but here are some tips to save fuel money. Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning fill-ups will normally save you money: those are typically the lowest prices of the week. Also, filling up in the morning when the fuel is cooler will get you a few extra cents of fuel. So your best time to fill up is — on average — Wednesday morning. Don’t “top off” your tank: you risk losing fuel to the station’s vapor recovery system, giving them back some fuel you’re buying.
Use a good fuel additive at fillup. Injectors with excessive deposits have poor spray patterns that can cost you 2 to 15% in fuel economy. Those deposits are caused by poor-quality fuel. Since ’95, the EPA has required all gasoline to have deposit-control additives. But about half of all gasoline on the market is the lowest additive concentration (LAC) gasoline, which barely meets the regulation and contributes to excessive deposits. What can you do? First, if your vehicle is designed for premium gas, and you’re using it, your injectors may be fine: most premium fuels include higher additive levels that are effective at keeping injectors clean.
However, what if you don’t use premium? Use “Top Tier” detergent gas — if you can find it — because this new fuel classification meets the 2004 GM/Honda/Toyota/BMW deposit control standard. If you don’t need premium and Top Tier isn’t available, you probably need an additive. BEWARE: many mousey fuel additive products generate nice sales profits but do little for your vehicle. Find a good one that will actually clean your injectors, keep them clean, and (for diesel) lubricate your fuel pump. Our website suggests fuel additives that we know do the job with quality, for a fair price.
Lose some weight! Clean out your vehicle’s trunk (and maybe the back seat). Tools from that weekend project two months ago is costing you fuel! Every 200 pounds in your trunk costs you roughly 1 mpg.
Don’t drive! Carpool, occasionally ride a bicycle or walk, telecommute for part of your work-week, or take public transportation.