Improving gas mileage not only saves drivers money but also benefits the environment by releasing fewer emissions into the air and reducing a nation’s dependence on oil and oil imports. Reducing the amount of driving we do by carpooling, using public transportation, and combining trips have the greatest effect on how much gas each person uses.
That said, there are many ways to improve fuel economy when we do drive. These primarily involve driving more efficiently and making sure our cars are properly maintained.
When it comes to fuel economy, these two goals go hand in hand. If you don’t seem to be getting the overall gas mileage you desire, there can be several reasons why. It may be a mechanical issue or your personal driving habits.
Causes of Bad Gas Mileage
Bad gas mileage is caused by a number of different things. The list goes on and on, but there are various things that attribute to this problem. Bad gas mileage means that your car is not running as efficiently as it could, and it also means you are losing money at the pumps because you are filling up more often.
Here are some of the main causes of poor gas mileage.
1. Tire Pressure
If your tires are not at the correct air pressure, you will lose fuel economy. This is the case if they are underinflated, overinflated or each tire has a different pressure. The panel inside your driver’s side door will show you the ideal air pressure. Do not go based on the “max pressure” as listed on the tires themselves.
2. Air Filter
If your air filter is old and dirty, the engine won’t get the right amount of clean air it needs to burn the fuel. Air filters are inexpensive and easy to replace.
The air filters can get clogged and simply need to be unclogged to fix the problem. Air filters need to be cleaned so that the engine can work at its peak performance.
3. Oxygen Sensors
Having bad oxygen sensors and air filters can reduce your gas mileage by up to 20%. The oxygen sensors help keep the proper mixture of air and fuel and having this off-balance can be inefficient.
Most vehicles have multiple oxygen sensors to measure the air intake and emissions output. If the sensor is failing or is tripping the check engine light, you’ll want to have it checked out.
4. Spark Plugs
Your spark plugs are responsible for sparking combustion in your engine. If they misfire or are working poorly, this can affect your gas mileage in a negative way.
5. Fuel System
Having bad fuel injectors can cause bad mileage. This is because the fuel injectors are responsible for putting fuel into the engine. If there is a leak of some sort, then less fuel will make it to the engine, and then in turn make it run less efficiently.
6. Air Conditioner
Having your air conditioner on causes a lot of gas to be wasted in powering the system. Depending on your local climate, consider turning off the air conditioner when it makes sense and rides with your windows open. At higher speeds, close the windows though to reduce drag.
7. Exhaust System
Whether it’s an oxygen sensor, the catalytic converter, an exhaust pipe leak, muffler, or some other emissions issue, your exhaust system plays a crucial role in fuel economy. If you are not getting the mileage you expect, it’s a good idea to get your exhaust system looked at by a professional mechanic.
8. Motor Oil
The type of motor oil you use will have an impact on your gas mileage. Make sure and use the right weight and type for your vehicle to ensure optimal engine performance.
9. Driving Habits
Your own driving habits also make a difference. A common cause of bad mileage is your own driving habits. If you are an aggressive driver, likely you accelerate too quickly.
This causes more fuel to be used and will use up more gas than you need. The same goes for revving your engine. It may sound cool, but it uses up gas for going nowhere.
10. Excessive Idling
Many people waste gas by idling. Idling is when you have your engine on, but you are parked and not moving. Common places where this occurs are when you are trying to warm up your car in the winter, or while you are waiting to pick someone up.
Your car really doesn’t need more than 30 seconds to warm up the engine. When it comes to waiting for someone, turn your car off or put it into neutral. Since you aren’t moving, you might as well save gas and the environment.
These are just a few tips and reasons why you might not be getting the best possible gas mileage in your vehicle.
How To Improve Gas Mileage?
Drive more efficiently, our driving habits have a significant impact on fuel efficiency.
1. Go Easy on the Pedal
Speeding, braking, and rapid acceleration waste gas. Depending on the type of vehicle, poor driving habits can negatively affect fuel economy by between 15% and 30%. Based on the current national average of $3.09 per gallon (for regular gasoline), driving sensibly, and not like a race car driver, can lead to an equivalent gas savings of between 31 cents and $1.24 per gallon.
2. Slow Down
Gas mileage efficiency tends to decrease above 50 miles per hour. For every five miles per hour that exceed 50 mph, drivers pay an equivalent of about 22 cents more for each gallon of gas.
While each vehicle has its own optimal speed for fuel efficiency, speeding can result in 7% to 14% reduced fuel economy. Driving at slower speeds can save 22 to 43 cents per gallon.
3. Leave Extras at Home
An additional 100 pounds in your car can reduce gas mileage by up to 1%. The reduction is relative to the vehicle’s weight: smaller vehicles are more affected by increased weight than larger ones. For every 100 pounds in extra weight, plan on spending up to 3 cents more per gallon.
4. Use Cruise Control (When Appropriate)
Using cruise control under appropriate conditions (avoiding use during especially hilly terrain) can improve fuel economy by up to 14%. That’s a savings of about 43 cents per gallon.
5. Turn off the Car
Idling gets zero miles per gallon and collectively consumes several billion gallons of fuel per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The California Energy Commission (CEC) advises that vehicles should be turned off if the expected wait will be longer than 10 seconds since an idling vehicle can burn as much as one gallon of gas each hour. Turning the car off can save about 3 cents per minute.
6. Check Tire Pressure
A little bit of vehicle maintenance can go a long way in improving gas mileage. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 1.25 billion gallons of gasoline approximately 1% of total consumption – are wasted each year on underinflated tires.
Tires can lose about 2 pounds per square inch (psi) per month. Each tire that is underinflated by 10 psi reduces fuel economy by about 3.3%. Four tires that are underinflated by 10 psi, then, would reduce a vehicle’s fuel economy by a substantial 10%, at an added cost of 31 cents per gallon.
Follow the guidelines in your vehicle’s owner’s manual (these recommendations also appear on a sticker inside the driver’s side door jamb) and not what is stamped onto the tire itself.
7. Replace Spark Plugs
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence indicates that bad spark plugs can decrease fuel economy by up to 30%, and can cost drivers up to about 94 cents per gallon at today’s prices. If a car’s gas mileage suddenly drops, there’s a good chance it’s because of misfiring spark plugs.
8. Check the Alignment
Misaligned tires drag instead of roll freely. Improper alignment can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as 10% about 31 cents per gallon. In addition, the tires can wear out more quickly.
Tires that are out of balance (symptom: vibration in the steering wheel) can cause uneven tire wear, which can result in lower gas mileage. Tires should be balanced and rotated according to the vehicle’s owner’s manual to improve tire performance and fuel economy.
9. Check for Brake Drag
Brake drag can really sink your mileage. Brake calipers have a nasty habit of rusting, binding, and dragging down your gas mileage. How can you tell if your brakes are dragging without having them checked at a shop?
Easy! Buy an inexpensive non-contact infrared laser thermometer (about $20 at any home center), remove the wheel cover (if equipped), and aim the laser at the wheel hub after a drive. Compare the readings from the right and left sides.
If they vary by more than 20 percent, you’ve probably got a dragging brake or a wheel bearing problem, so take it in for repairs.
10. Fill Your Tank Early in the Morning or Late at Night
Fuel is dispensed by volume. If you fill your tank when it is coolest outside early in the morning or late at night, and avoid the heat of the day the fuel will be denser. As a result, you will get more gas for the same amount of money.