My search for better fuel economy through experiments, travels, and research have led to me to several conclusions on how to get better fuel efficiency from your vehicle. Is there a single change you can make to get more miles to the gallon? The answer is not simple.
Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for those that would ask, "How come cars seem to get worse MPG than they did several years ago?" I can't tell you, without any doubt, why the 2009 Toyota Prius gets 48 MPG and the 2001 Honda Insight got 68 MPG. With the cost of gas nearly quadrupled eight years later we are suffered to be excited about a car that gets 20 MPG less. I don't know why. People will tell you that it's the added weight of safety improvements. People say that the parts on more efficient cars cost more, and this outweighs the fuel savings. Then you've got conspiracy theorists claiming that it's a swindle set up by the oil companies and auto manufacturers. People say the 1950s Fish Carburetor, for example, used to get cars 100 MPG, but was dependent upon the inclusion of lead in gasoline. Now with unleaded gas, that can never be achieved. I don't know. I'm not a scientist. None of these reasons or excuses, no matter how absurd or credible tells us what we need to know: How do I get the most gas mileage now?
Let's first talk about the more proven methods and then I'll move into more unconventional theories and devices for more inquiring minds. No single method will raise your MPG astronomically. If you adopt a combination of these methods, however, you can see significant results. It also depends on how old, heavy, and maintained your car is. Also keep in mind that newer cars have a computer system that regulates your system to achieve the best gas mileage. For example, it's not enough that you have a 1981 car with an oxygen sensor installed. It also depends upon where that oxygen sensor is installed, what it's made out of, how clean it is, and what your car does with the information it provides. Obviously, the best way to save gas is to buy a hybrid, all-electric car, or hydrogen fuel cell car. For those of us who don’t see buying one as a viable option in this no-credit economy right now and who can’t ride a bicycle to work, there are other options. Rest assured!
Here are the top 10 ways to improve fuel efficiency:
1. Avoid accelerating and braking too fast.
It can lower your gas mileage by 33% on the highway and by 5% in the city. Anticipate traffic conditions and drive smoothly. Try to maintain a constant speed i.e. cruise control and overdrive. When going up inclines keep it steady without rapid acceleration.
2. Avoid driving over 60 MPH.
Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph reduces your fuel economy by 7% ---in effect, another $0.20 per gallon of gas.
3. Warm up your car by gently driving it first, not idling.
With modern, computer-controlled engines you only need to warm it up for 30 seconds before driving. Otherwise you're wasting fuel and increasing emissions. Once you've reached normal operating temperature: If you have to idle for more than a minute (7 seconds in new cars) then you will waste more gas than if you simply turn the car off and turn it back on. If you reside in freezing temperatures, use an engine block heater to improve fuel mileage by up to 10%. Use an automatic timer to turn it on two hours before you leave.
4. Combine errands and plan your route.
Several short trips from a cold start can use twice as much gas as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. Likewise, if you plan your route to cover the shortest, fastest, and flattest distance ahead of time instead of just getting in the car and driving, then you will save time, wear and tear, and gas.
5. Use carpooling and ride-sharing when possible.
6. Filling up.
Do it in the morning when it's cooler and the gas at the station is denser. Since gas pumps measure volumes of gas and not densities, you'll end up with more fuel. Higher octane gas is usually a complete waste of money. Use what is recommended by your manufacturer. Fill your tank, close the lid tight, but don't top it off---it's an evaporation thing.
Check your tire pressure monthly, before long trips, and during periods of extreme weather fluctuation. You can improve your gas mileage by 3%, make your tires last longer, safer, by keeping your tires inflated. Pay attention to the proper PSI. It is stamped on each tire. Fill your tires with nitrogen if you can do it free or cheaply. Nitrogen won't "leak out" as much as regular air and is safer, less combustible. Commercial aircraft and the space shuttle use it.
Clean out your car, remove excess weight, and only take what you need. An extra 100 pounds may reduce fuel economy by about 2%. Avoid towing trailers.
9. Wind Resistance.
Don't put items on top of your car. The wind resistance can reduce your fuel economy by up to 5%. Avoid using the air conditioner because it strains the engine and causes greater fuel use (5-30%), but rolling down the windows will cause an air drag that is just as bad for fuel efficiency. Avoid using other electrical accessories as well.
10. Beyond Maintenance.
Air Filter. Check and replace air filters regularly. Replacing clogged air filters can improve your gas mileage by as much as 10%. Actually, I recommend a quality air filter with maximum air flow that you can clean. I personally use K&N.
Oil. “Energy Conserving”-labeled motor oil or synthetic motor oil. Using the wrong oil or can reduce your gas mileage by up to 2%. Get an oil change. Dirty oil equals poor gas mileage and is bad for your engine. I recommend a 0-weight synthetic oil like Amsoil because the friction is a bare minimum and stays clean longer. Many people don't use it though because it is more expensive. It all depends if you want to shell out the cash later for a new engine or at the pump.
Oxygen sensor (O2 sensor). Make sure it works. A faulty O2 sensor is bad for fuel economy. Don't skimp on the type of O2 sensor. Get one that is sensitive, accurate, and durable. Keep in mind that if the rest of your computer system isn't properly calibrated, then an O2 sensor won’t mean much.
Ignition. Make sure you have not just clean and new, but decent spark plugs. Increases in MPG have been reported with platinum spark plugs, but I recommend LG Brisk Halo plugs if they are available for your car and you have a computer-controlled system. Studies have been conducted that prove an increase in gas mileage. Also make sure you have new spark plug cables that are properly insulated and not touching each other or any metal. Older cars should make sure their ignition timing is set correctly--not necessarily factory standards. Adding Halo spark plugs, for example, will throw off the ignition timing because the spark is much faster. For older cars I also recommend an ignition system i.e. MSD HEI, that ignites the spark plugs at the same rate as the RPM increases.
These are all tested and proven ways to increase your MPG, but there are more experimental methods to raise your fuel efficiency. They are mainly "experimental" because the success rate cannot be constantly duplicated given a variable set of factors. I don't recommend using any of these methods unless you carefully research exactly how they should be applied, when, on what cars, and the precise specifications and materials required. Don't take any one person's word for it or you might find yourself disillusioned by the whole process, damage your car, or put people's lives in danger. I also recommend checking with the EPA about any fuel saving device before you decide to purchase anybody's product---especially one they built in their garage. These devices all hinge on one major premise--that better combustion equals better gas mileage.
1. Cyclone. Tornado. Vortex. Vortex Valve. There are many of these similar gadgets with different names. They are basically a thin piece of metal inserted somewhere that supposedly aerates the gas for better air/fuel ratio and combustion--unproven and possibly dangerous for your engine. I haven't come across any serious studies that show otherwise.
2. Magnets. In all the studies I've come across, they actually made fuel consumption worse.
3. Brown's Gas or Hydrogen Generators. Here's where we get into some confusion. The claim isn't that a car can run on hydrogen alone. That is simply dangerous. Some people swear by them, however, given these devices are built with exactly the right materials, to the right standards, and they are used correctly. The idea is that by adding enough hydrogen as the gasoline goes into your engine, you will achieve better combustion.
4. Condensator. Some people also swear by this device for older cars that aren't already equipped with a similar device, provided it is built and used correctly. What it does to your gas is filter out the oil and contaminants in your system for better combustion and less pollution. Your engine doesn't have to waste energy burning oil and, in many cases, your engine life is increased.
5. Fuel additives and Pills. Fuel additives are generally unreliable. The biggest benefit is to improve octane. If your model of car doesn't respond to higher octane gas, however, then this is just wasted money. Also, at $3-6 a bottle for an octane booster, it's usually just cheaper and less trouble to buy the premium gas if you need it. Still if you must try additives, I recommend 5starshine. Click the Gas and Fuel Savers link. Other additives: Some people wear by Acetone which can be found in moth balls. The problem is that it's not safe for your engine. So save gas or buy a new engine?
Before you try any of these methods you should know what the EPA says about them. The manufacturer of any reputable gas saving device will have tried to have their product tested by a trusted scientific organization and are willing to publish the results of such tests. The EPA has tested many air bleed devices, vapor bleed devices, liquid injection, ignition devices, fuel line devices (collers, heaters, magnets), carburetor mixture enhancers, internal engine modifications, accessory drive modifiers, fuel additives, oil additives, driving habit modifiers, and miscellaneous devices. A full report shows you which specific devices save gas, which ones don't, and which ones save gas but increase emissions. I would be leery about buying anything not on this list. Go see which are the winning fuel saving devices tested by the EPA.
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