Maximizing Your Fuel Economy is Just Common Sense

Fuel Economy [MPG] Indicator on a Honda Insight Hybrid Electric VehicleAs the economy continues to squeeze our wallets, it’s becoming more important than ever to consider where we are saving money. Maybe we’re cutting our restaurant budget a little bit, or making sure we turn off our lights when we’re not using them. The same goes for our vehicles, maybe limiting our joy rides, or buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle can help us to get the most for our fuel dollar.

The question remains, though, if you can’t afford a more fuel efficient vehicle, is there anything you can do to make the best of what you have? As the following points will help you to see, you don’t need to be an expert to get the most out of your current vehicle. It just takes a little bit of common sense.

The Vehicle

  1. Maintenance. I discussed recently how important vehicle maintenance is to fuel efficiency, and it bears repeating. Vehicle maintenance is essential to keep running efficiently, such as oil changes with the correct weight oil, and proper tire pressures, can make a significant impact on your overall fuel economy.
  2. Check Engine Light. The EPA estimates that running with a defective oxygen sensor could equate to as much as a 40% drop in fuel economy. If your check engine light is on, don’t ignore it, because it could be costing you! Perhaps a new oxygen sensor will cost $200, but consider that if you spend $200 per month on gasoline, you might as well take $80 and set it on fire.
  3. Cargo vs Aerodynamics.Vehicle Aerodynamics - Sedan vs Fastback

    An important part of your vehicle’s efficiency is aerodynamics. If you have to carry something, like luggage or even a bicycle, try and put it inside the vehicle instead of on the roof rack. The roof rack is convenient, to be sure, and in some cases might be unavoidable, but the aerodynamic losses are much more than they warrant. Additionally, the spare tire and tools are important, but regarding excessive cargo, the EPA estimates that every 100 pounds of cargo adds 7¢/gal to your fuel bill.

The Driver

A recent study, done by General Motors, pitted two drivers of identical Chevy Cruze LT vehicles. One driver did everything right, and one driver did everything, to put it lightly, wrong. The EPA sticker on the Chevy Cruze LT rates it at 30 mpg. Your actual fuel mileage is highly dependent on, not only the vehicle itself, but also where it is driven, and how it is driven.

By applying different driving habits, one driver was able to average 21 mpg, while, over the same period, the other driver was able to average 37 mpg, or 76% more efficiently. That’s almost like they were driving two different vehicles! What kind of habits helped the driver exceed the EPA rating on her vehicle?

  1. Keep Calm. A sure way to waste fuel is to drive aggressively, accelerating wildly to get off the line, only the have to stop seconds later at the next red light, which is worth about 5% fuel economy lost in city driving. On the highway is even worse, up to 33% worse, because more fuel is spent overcoming drag in order to pass someone on the highway. Take it easy, and we’ll all get to our destinations safer and more efficiently.
  2. Watch Your Speed. Depending on your vehicle’s aerodynamics, engine size, transmission gearing, and other factors, your vehicle’s most efficient speed may be different from other models. Typically, though, the faster you drive, the more drag becomes a problem. Every 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like adding up to 47¢/gal to your previous fill-up. Try setting your cruise control, which keeps accelerating and decelerating to a minimum, also saving fuel.
  3. Idle Time. Many people are under the assumption that stopping on the way to work for your morning cup of coffee is faster if you take the drive-through lane. Funny how that lane is always full, and all those cars are just sitting there, idling, wasting gas. The EPA estimates that idling could cost you up to 3¢/min idling with the air-conditioning on, or you can save a penny and turn off your air-conditioning. Pick any parking space, and you’ll probably get out of the shoppe faster than the last guy in the line, which would have been you, and you’ll save on gas as well.

The System

Italian Cappuccino

Maximizing fuel mileage doesn’t require a lot, just a little bit of common sense and forethought. Make sure your vehicle isn’t overloaded, that it’s well-maintained, and that it is running properly. If you’re running late, speeding up and driving aggressively won’t help you get there any sooner, anyway. Learn to get up a few minutes earlier, and use the fuel savings to upgrade to a cappuccino, but don’t use the drive-through.

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