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Tip: Yes, You Can Use Less Fuel Without Vehicle Downsizing

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For those who drive a lot, or have a relatively thirsty vehicle, and tend to live paycheck to paycheck, the 40-cent jump in gas prices over the past month could be a pretty big deal.

But it doesn't have to be. Just by more following just a few easy-to-remember pieces of advice, it's likely that you could see a substantial improvement in fuel economy and ease any financial strain that higher gas prices might be causing.

So before you go rushing to the showroom for a smaller, more fuel-efficient car—a trend that's also fueling a price spike on used hybrids and small cars as of late, and possibly negating any cost savings—give it some more thought, and in the meantime consider taking several less-radical steps in your daily routine.

The video down below, from General Motors, has some very useful tips and sums up those small changes very well. Take a look at these tips, then watch the clip:

Make your driving style smooth. Accelerate gently and brake gently. Just by smoothing out your responses and looking farther ahead, you might be able to improve fuel economy by ten percent or more, covering the same ground in nearly the same time.

Lower your cruising speed. Most cars will get surprisingly good fuel economy at a steady 55 mph. At today's fuel prices, for every 5 mph above 60 mph, it's like adding 25 to 30 cents per gallon in costs, according to the AAA.

Be smart about using your A/C. Running your A/C might save fuel; but it might also add to your fuel bill if you use it at the wrong time. While shutting off the air conditioning and opening your windows on a hot day might save fuel if you're driving around town, above 40 mph you lose more energy to aerodynamic drag than to the A/C compressor. At high speed on a hot day, you're simply better off raising the windows and switching it on.

Maintain your vehicle regularly. Engine oil affects fuel economy more than you might think. Make sure you change it regularly, and that your mechanic uses the correct grade and viscosity.

Check tire pressures. Get in the habit of visually checking your tires whenever you get into the vehicle, but at least once a month check your tire pressures and make sure they're at the manufacturer's recommended pressure.

Avoid traveling during peak traffic times. Stop-and-go, idling, and creeping along wastes fuel, and the times you go into work or get out and do errands could affect your fuel budget.



[General Motors]

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Comments (16)
  1. Thanks for the insight. I will think about it when I am on the road.

  2. I wish 55 came back and/or the speed limits were enforced better. Most of ATL inside of 285 is limited to 55 but if you don't go 75-85 MPH then you're a road hazard even in the slow lane where the trucks try to run you over... Last time I saw a cop was four years ago when he pulled me over in my GTO commuting back from the bus station out of all places... I don't understand the lack of enforcement in GA - it's a goldmine for cash-strapped budgets but no one cares.

  3. I drive over 100 miles every day. Do you have any real tips for real drivers?

  4. "[R]eal tips for real drivers?" Sure. I'm a "real driver" and I consistently get better fuel economy than others driving the same model vehicle, and I'm not one of those potentially dangerous hyper-milers. On the highway, just slow down. Set the cruise and park yourself in the rightmost lane. Get a book on tape or CD to keep your focus. If you calculate how much later you will arrive, you'll be surprised how small the difference is unless you're driving much further than you are. If you drive on surface streets, then drive as though you have no brakes. If you see a red light, then take your foot off the gas and maybe even throw the tranny into neutral (which isn't actually legal). You may be surprised how many lights are timed on major thoroughfares, but it doesn't work if you don't look far ahead of you and anticipate. It becomes sub-conscious after a while.

  5. @jdl50cc - All of your tips are good except for one that gives you up as an oldtimer :-) Throwing the tranny into neutral on fuel injected cars will actually use more fuel (just like idling your engine) than just taking your foot off the gas and leaving it in drive (this uses ZERO gas.)

  6. @jdl50cc
    At least you stay to the right - kudos to you! On trips under 60 miles 55 may be ok, but on many returns with the family from Boston to Detroit it would cost over $160 to slow down from 70 -75 mph to 55 mph. I may put another $20 -30 of gas into the Chrysler T&C to go faster, but 55 means an overnight stay and extra meals vs a non-stop run at 75. Time is money, and when you're hauling 3 kids it's worth alot! Especially since we are only looking at going up to 26 / 27 mph from 22 / 23 mph.
    As for everyday driving, at the minutes long lights in Mass I have turned my car into a hybrid by turning off the engine for the 90 - 120 seconds we idle, and that makes a real difference.

  7. Oddly, nothing was said about the time spent sitting and idling while waiting for morning coffee or meals in drive through queues. Park it and go inside. Idling an engine in a drive through adds 0 mpg for 3-5 minutes each time this is done.

  8. I drove a 2005 Dakota 4X4 for four years. 99% of miles were in town. I averaged 10.9 MPG no matter how I drove. I tried every one of those tips and more, including over-inflating the tires, shutting it off every time I had to stop for more than a few seconds, removing unnecessary items(weight) and driving with the tailgate down. I also tried driving like a maniac, flooring the accelerator at every takeoff, driving clear up to a stop and slamming on the brakes, running with the windows down and the air on and nothing made even a tenth of a mile per gallon difference.

  9. That's because you owned a Dodge, Dodge gets the worst gas mileage, so no matter what you do it's pointless to try to save gas.

  10. @Scott, Your experience does go along, somewhat, with what I've observed over hundreds of test vehicles. Vehicles with smaller engines see more significant improvements from changes in driving style than those with big V-8s.
    And @JKD, you're right about coasting in Drive, not Neutral; I've had engineers confirm this.

  11. I own a 97 Camry that is slowly leaking motor oil for a couple of years. Somehow, when the engine oil was at the "low" level, I got incredible gas mileage(~30mpg) drving around DFW local area. I am wondering if anybody ever notices the same phenomenon or has a scientific expanantion on this?

  12. I own a 97 Camry that is slowly leaking motor oil for a couple of years. Somehow, when the engine oil was at the "low" level, I got incredible gas mileage(~30mpg) drving around DFW local area. I am wondering if anybody ever notices the same phenomenon or has a scientific expanantion on this?

  13. Most of these are very good tips for saving fuel. It may be impossible for most of us to avoid driving during peak traffic hours, as a majority of us commute to our jobs during peak hours. Try leaving earlier? Maybe, depending on how much sleep you want to lose to save some fuel? I would not recommend driving in the far right lane for any length of time, as merging traffic is always entering and leaving the freeway from this lane, which will cause you to constantly change speed, which also wastes fuel. You are better off choosing the middle lanes and staying at a constant speed with the flow of traffic.

  14. Dillion, Your car gets better mileage when it is low on oil, because the crankshaft is spining in a pan of oil and the oil causes alot of drag or friction to the spinning crankshaft. When your car is low on oil the oil level in the oilpan is so low that it is not touching the rotating crankshaft, thus alowing it to spin without the drag or friction from the oil in the oilpan. (Parasitic drag) Many cars have a sheet metal tray surrounding the crankshaft (windidge tray) that stops the oil from touching the rotating crankshaft when your vehicle is accelerating or decelerating. The oil in the engine tends to move around like a wave in the ocean when you accelerate and decelarate, this is the reason that a windige tray was designed. If you run your car 1 quart lower than the recommended full line on your dipstick your mileage will increase and your engine will not suffer from lack of oil. If you run your car 3 quarts lower than the full line on your dipstick, then you risk the chance of running your oil pump dry and ruining your engine bearings and seizing your engine. Good luck and good observation noticing the mileage gain from low oil levels.

  15. well about if car makers will make more clean diesel ! wnd why by SUV to go grocery store and taking kids to school ! and please give me a break don't even go there try to justify you need more room to carry bicycles and toys !! what is that ?? can your kids play at home i have two kids and i don't carry any of that. i have down sized from honda pilot to mini cooper, I'm on my second mini!! and i still think its a lot for fueling up $50 when Full Empty!! and I blame on all those that (need to drive Big Engine Vehicles) I will love to drive one too but not until their MPG will get better!!!

  16. I have an older Ford Mustang and it gets great gas mileage, I would presume it is the fuel injection, my other ford got good gas mileage just the same it also had fuel injection but was a smaller engine, I also drive smoothly and time those lights and use my exhilerator to slow down the car before getting to the stop light instead of the brake, driving defensively helps too.

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