No matter what kind of car you drive, you can be getting better fuel economy than what you're getting now. Did you know you can get better mileage by never filling up your tank? It's true, and most of these 20 tips and tricks will extend the range for any car ever made, even if it's electric. Some of them are effortless, and some require dedication, but they'll all work.
1. Ditch the MPG ratings
Numbers can be manipulated any which way you want, but the simple truth is that MPG doesn’t really tell you how much money you’re spending on fuel. G/100miles, on the other hand, will. How do you figure it out? Just type in your MPG in Google as “XX MPG per 100 miles,” and multiply your answer by whatever you pay for fuel in your area. Bam. Now you know how much or little the following tips will help you, so you can see if it’s worth it.
2. Lay off the damn loud pedal You’ve heard this one before about a million times, and you know what? It’s still true. Every time I see some moron in a Prius out accelerate me off a light I wish I had the legal right to pull him or her over, pry their eyes open Clockwork Orange-style and force them to watch Jeremy Clarkson getting better fuel economy in a BMW M3 than the Stig in a Prius. Even the worst fuel-sipping cars made will become gas guzzlers when you floor it. More acceleration requires more energy. Guess where your car gets its energy from.
3. And the brake Obviously you'll have to stop at some point, but if you know you’re turning soon or there’s a sharp bend in the road, coast for a bit. There are two reasons for this. 1) all your brakes do is convert your forward momentum into heat energy, and even the best energy recovery systems don’t capture 90% of that energy. 2) if you don’t slow down for a turn you have to take it faster, which is not only fun, it means you don’t have to accelerate as much. Last year, I compared hypermiling in a hybrid to some seriously fun driving. After 100 miles, the difference was one freaking dollar’s worth of fuel.
4. Don’t speed
You have to keep up with traffic, but cruising down the open road at 85 mph isn’t really helping anything. Stick your hand out the window and try to push it forward at those speeds. Now realize you’re asking your car to do the same. Of course, if you’ve got a strong tailwind, the negative impact of speeding will be mitigated to some extent.
5. Get the junk out of your trunk
Not only does the extra weight hurt your fuel economy, it upsets the balance of the car. You might not think about it that much, but if you start slowing down less for turns, it’s going to be more important.
6. Don’t fill up your tank
Each gallon of gas is 8.34 pounds, so depending on the size of your fuel tank, that means you could be saving 60 or more pounds just by filling up less, which in turn means using less fuel to schlep around all that extra fuel.
7. Turn off your A/C
Most cars with an ECO mode already do this to a large extent. Running your air conditioning puts an extra strain on your engine, meaning it’s working to drive the A/C compressor as well as the car itself. Of course, getting fired because you arrived at a business meeting dressed in sweat-soaked clothing’s probably going to cost you more than just a couple of bucks.
8. Idling in traffic
If you’re stuck in some of the world’s most insane traffic (looking at you, LA), then you might as well take advantage of that Auto Stop-Start feature your car has that shuts everything down when you’re not driving. The downside here is that it WILL wear out some of your car's parts faster if you use it all the time. Whether or not it saves you money in the long run is up to you to calculate.
9. Use Cruise Control
When you drive, more often than not you’re being at least a little inconstant with your throttle position, which means you’re using more gas than you need to be. Your car’s cruise control is much smoother, and thus better for your fuel economy.
10. Check your tire pressure
Every pound of pressure that your tires are missing costs you rolling resistance, which is inefficient. Bear in mind that if you air up your tires in the heat of summer, by the time winter rolls around it’ll be much, much lower, because physics.
11. Keep up with engine maintenance
Your car has a bunch of sensors and filters that serve different purposes. When these get clogged and dirty, your car will have a much harder time figuring out how to run optimally, which’ll in turn only cost you at the pump.
12. Use quality gasoline
Technically, all gasoline is the same, but the detergent blends each company uses are vastly different. Over the long run, you’re much more likely to develop issues with injectors or sensors if you stick to that cheapo grocery store gas station.
13. Monitor your car’s actual fuel consumption Most modern cars have a display setting in the instrument panel that will show you your actual fuel economy in real time. It’ll give goofy numbers like 1.2 mpg when you take off from a light, or 90 when you’re coasting down a hill. Those numbers aren’t really goofy: that’s actually what you’re getting at that very moment. Pay attention to those and you’ll see how much of a lead foot you really have.
14. Get rid of all the extra crap on your car
Do you really use that ski rack or need those mudflaps? They’re just adding wind resistance, making the job of cutting through the air that much more difficult.
15. Cover your wheels
One of the worst areas on your car for drag is the wheels. If you cover them as much as possible—even with cardboard—you’ll actually affect a noticeable difference.
16. Put a panel under your car
If you’ve ever looked under your car, there are a ton of various shapes under there that can all cause drag. By making a smooth surface* you’ll decrease drag immensely.
*Technically, you’d want a dimpled surface, like a golf ball, but that’s not important right now.
17. Tape up every gap on your car
Can air get in that gap? Yes. Will that cause turbulence and drag, ultimately resulting in worse MPG? Yes.
18. Use vortex generators
These are small V-shaped devices that you can put in various places on your car, like in front of the wheels, that’ll cause the air to spin in a vortex, obviously. To paraphrase the science speak, it means you’ll have a lot less drag.
19. Use an app
There are plenty of apps on the market to help you get better fuel economy. Some, like Automatic, will beep at you if you accelerate too quickly, brake too hard, or drive too fast, like a fully-automated back seat driver. If you never hear it do anything, your fuel efficiency is juuuuuust fine.
20. Remove anything you don't need that adds weight
Yes, that means sound deadening material, rear seats, and even your spare tire (which you don’t need if you’ve got run-flats or a good can of Slime).