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Tips for Improving Fuel Economy

Tips for Improving Fuel Economy

By Jeff Youngs, February 24, 2012
As the cost of gas remains high-still over $4.00 per gallon in some parts of the country-it can't hurt to consider these 12 tips to improve your fuel economy:

Don't warm up your vehicle. Modern engine management systems do not require an extended warm-up period before driving in cold weather. Even on the coldest morning, running your engine for 30 seconds is all you need before your vehicle is ready to drive. This allows just enough time for the oil to circulate throughout the engine. In fact, your vehicle will reach optimum operating temperature much faster when rolling than when idling. Today's engines are designed to run most efficiently and with the lowest emissions when warmed up, so the goal is to reach operating temperature as soon as possible. However, during the first few minutes of driving when an engine is "cold," try to avoid sudden or severe acceleration.

Avoid excessive idling. A vehicle idling for long periods wastes gas. Because it takes very little fuel to start a warm engine, turn off the motor if you'll be waiting while parked for more than one minute.

Check tire inflation. Tires with low air pressure increase rolling resistance, requiring your engine to work harder as it moves your vehicle. Inflate your tires to the recommended pressure, often found on the placard inside the driver's-side door jamb or the vehicle's owner's manual. (In the event that the door placard and the owner's manual conflict with regard to tire pressure, the pressure indicated on the door placard takes precedence.) Maintain proper air pressure by checking each tire with a tire gauge at least once a month.

Watch your speed. Full-throttle starts and inconsistent use of the gas pedal unnecessarily burn additional fuel. You can increase your fuel economy by accelerating gradually, maintaining speed, traveling at or below posted speed limits, and watching traffic conditions ahead to anticipate throttle usage. Aim for speeds under 60 mph as vehicles are less fuel efficient at higher speeds.

Keep your vehicle well maintained. With normal wear and tear on your vehicle, and as filters get dirty, spark plugs wear, and alignment falls out of specification, fuel economy may gradually decrease. You could lose as much as 10 percent in fuel economy due to a clogged or dirty air filter. Keeping your vehicle maintained according to the manufacturer's recommendations will improve reliability and fuel economy.

Remove unnecessary weight. Every additional pound of weight in your vehicle requires the engine to work harder, which decreases fuel economy. Empty your vehicle of any unnecessary items and your engine will reward you with more miles per gallon. This includes the back seat, items stored in the trunk and glove box and any consoles or storage bins in the vehicle. You'd be surprised how quickly pounds add up.

Use cruise control. The cruise control feature optimizes throttle control for excellent fuel economy when driving on open stretches of highway or on freeways. To take advantage of the savings, use it only when traffic and road conditions permit. Remember, the lower your set speed, the better your fuel economy.

Use air conditioning selectively. While air conditioning does use more fuel (the engine has to work harder to turn the air conditioning compressor), aerodynamic drag from open windows is more detrimental to fuel economy at highway speeds. A good compromise would be to open your vehicle's windows when driving around town, and use the air conditioner when driving on highways or freeways.

Lower your drag. How your vehicle interacts with air flowing around it as you drive (aerodynamic drag) plays a significant role in determining how many miles you can squeeze from each gallon of gas. In addition to keeping the windows up when driving on a highway or freeway, try to avoid strapping luggage or other items to the roof, as this disrupts the airflow and increases aerodynamic drag, significantly reducing fuel economy.

Use the correct engine oil. Oil is sold in a variety of viscosities (a measurement of how well oil flows, or how thick it is). Your engine was designed to operate with a certain oil viscosity, so check the owner's manual to make sure you are using the proper type of engine oil. Many modern engine oils are labeled "energy conserving," meaning they have a demonstrated ability to improve fuel economy.

Use the original tires and wheels. Though they may look stylish, aftermarket 20-inch wheels and tires hurt fuel economy. The wide wheels and tires increase aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance, and add vehicle weight. Your vehicle was engineered with specific size wheel and tire combinations in mind, and these will offer the best blend of ride quality, vehicle handling and fuel economy.

Take advantage of a warm engine. Instead of starting a cold engine several times a day, group all of your errands into one trip. Your engine will produce fewer emissions, run smoother and more efficiently, and use less gas.
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