03 August 2006

How Can I Improve My Gas Mileage?

A short list of easy driving techniques that can help you beat the gas crunch and lower greenhouse emissions

I first compiled this list in 2002. It is based on many years of experience including several solo cross-country trips and three years as a professional driver. These tips will improve your mileage whether you have a car with a carburetor or a fuel-injected engine, whether you have a manual transmission or an automatic.

Of course the best way to save gas is to use none: walk or ride a bicycle. You can also buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle, combine trips, carpool and so forth. Great ideas all. But how can you save gas when you are actually operating your car? The following tips increase my mileage by about 20% and other drivers who have followed them have reported similar gains.

  1. Keep your vehicle and engine in good running order: change the oil every three to five thousand miles, and especially make sure tire pressure is correct. A poorly running vehicle wastes a lot of gas.
  2. Drive at or below the speed limit, rather than 10 or 15 miles per hour over it. The faster you go, the more gas you waste.
  3. On the expressway, and when possible to do so without obstructing traffic, drive no faster than 65 mph. At higher speeds, your engine burns fuel at such a rate that you end up using far more gas even though you arrive only a few minutes sooner.
  4. On the expressway, drive with all windows closed. This makes your vehicle more aerodynamic and thus it burns less gas.
  5. Open the vents and set the temperature to cool rather than using the air conditioner. The air conditioner takes a heavy drain on your engine, making it work harder and thus burn more gas.
  6. Shift into neutral when driving downhill for a length of road. Your engine burns much less gas in neutral than it does while in gear. This technique saves gas whether you have manual or automatic transmission, although the benefit is higher for the manual.
  7. Shift into neutral when slowing down. Again, this burns less gas.
  8. Shift into neutral when idling at red lights. Just keep your foot on the brake.
  9. Turn off your engine if you are going to idle for more than thirty seconds, such as at a drive-through window, at a long red light, or while stopped at a railroad crossing. It causes more pollution and wastes far more gas to idle than it does to re-start your engine.
  10. Don’t leave your car idling just to run your car’s air conditioner. This doubles your contribution to global climate change: your air conditioner is adding more heat (air conditioners expel heat as exhaust) while your engine is adding more carbon monoxide.
  11. Accelerate at a moderate rate of speed rather than flooring it. Quick acceleration wastes gas, is more dangerous, and doesn’t get you there any faster.
  12. Decelerate at a moderate rate of speed rather than jabbing the brakes. Avoid quick changes of speed unless necessary.
  13. Stay in one lane as much as possible rather than weaving in and out of traffic. Lane jumping wastes large amounts of gas because it causes more acceleration and deceleration. It might get you to the next red light faster, but you are only wasting more gas to get there faster just to idle at the light.
  14. Slow down rather than jumping into another traffic lane to dart around a vehicle ahead of you that is slowing down to turn. Coast in neutral if possible. You car will burn less fuel and you won’t become a hazard to traffic. Always leave yourself plenty of forward room (no tailgating) and you will only need to coast for a moment.
  15. Drive at a steady rate of speed as much as possible rather than speeding up and slowing down a lot. Drivers who jab the gas, jab the brake, jab the gas, and so forth, don’t get there any faster, but they do burn a whole lot more gas.

Final note: Safety is the number one concern every time you get in a vehicle or get near a road, even as a pedestrian. Always abandon these tips whenever following them would be too dangerous.

Copyright © 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, by Gwen Foss, a.k.a. Book Doctor Gwen. Permission is hereby granted to copy and distribute this item as long as the item is reproduced in full, and as long as the author’s name is attached.

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