In this day and age, we are helplessly dependent on our automobiles. You may not even be conscious of how much you rely on your car. If tomorrow you couldn’t drive, what would your day look like? Would you be able to work? Would you be able to get anywhere outside of your house? Would you have food that week? Automobiles define life in the twenty-first century, allowing for rapid locomotion and thereby making the world a smaller place. They are commodities which only modern mankind has had the luxury of enjoying. So given the importance of cars to our lifestyles, it’ll behoove you to take a little time to make sure your car is running in most efficient way possible. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the most effective, useful ways to save on fuel.
There are a wide range of factors that influence the miles-per-gallon your car gets. Quick acceleration, speeding, and rough terrain may be the most commonly recognized fuel-guzzling culprits. If you want good fuel economy, the number one rule is to drive responsibly. Of course, this is also a good idea regardless of fuel economy. For this article, we wanted to provide you with some slightly lesser known but still handy tips—a few things you can do to get a little more miles for your dollar.
We’ve selected these tips with an eye towards relatability to the average driver. There are tons of possibilities when it comes to fuel efficiency, but don’t worry—we’re not going to tell you to run your car on sunflower seed oil. These tips are simple and logical, and aim to give you better understanding of how fuel consumption and preservation in your vehicle works. We’ve also tried to include tips that you won’t find blatantly self-evident. If you’ve Googled something like “car tips for fuel efficiency,” you’ve probably come across articles telling you to “conserve your trips” and “carpool to share fuel costs.” No bull—we’re here to give you some useful tips that (hopefully) will be news to you. We’ve included the essentials, but we’ve also kept in mind that you may be familiar with the basics. These are, for the most part, all very simple things you can do that may go a long way. If you keep reading, you may expect to save yourself a little time, money, and effort in the long run. So for the first tips…
Lose the top carrier
Just as towing excessive weight strongly cuts down your mpg, a little extra weight on the roof will put a drag on your fuel efficiency over time. If you have a top carrier and don’t find yourself using it that often, do yourself a favor and remove it for everyday driving. When it comes to fuel economy, you can do yourself a lot of good by considering a very simple equation: more weight = less mpg. Every little extra bit of weight directly impacts your fuel consumption. This leads us to the next tip, which is…
Clean out your car
A car full of crumpled water bottles and McDonald’s napkins not only looks bedraggled. It may be reducing your fuel efficiency. This might sound ridiculous, but if you’re like most people, you have a lot of extra stuff in your car that’s either needs to be thrown away or doesn’t need to be in there. All of this junk adds extra weight to your vehicle and, over time, costs you extra. Depending on what you tend to keep lying around in your car, this may not be much, but what how can you lose by making the inside of your car look nice to save money?
Go easy on the idling
A lot of people will let their car sit and warm up in cold weather thinking this will somehow help the engine get better fuel efficiency when they start driving. That would be nice if it were true. But this is neither beneficial to your engine nor to the environment, according to MotherEarthNews.com, which states that letting your car idle is “the slowest way to bring it up to operating temperature.” In other words, all your car’s really doing when you let it idle is sitting there burning gas. And it may be doing your vehicle even more damage, as EPA.Gov (Environment Protection Agency) states that, in addition to producing unnecessary pollution, idling for more than 30 seconds wears down your car’s internal components.
Buy fuel in the early morning
This may sound crazier than all the rest. The idea is that colder air equals denser petrol. When petrol warms up, it expands, which means that it fills your fuel tank with the same amount of liquid, but with less convertible fuel. CarBibles.com uses this logic to claim, “If it’s 15°C in the morning and 35°C in the afternoon, you’ll get about 2.5% more petrol in the morning for the same price.” But does this actually work? Depends on the time of year and weather conditions. Test it for yourself! Use this (how-to guide at WikiHow http://www.wikihow.com/Calculate-Your-Car%27s-Fuel-Efficiency-%28MPG%29) to measure your fuel efficiency first with fuel bought in the hottest part of the day, and then with fuel bought in the wee hours of the morning. Maybe you’ll find a significant enough difference.
Keep those tires pumped
Underinflated tires are a major drag on fuel economy. If you’ve ever ridden a bicycle with half-inflated tires, you know how much more work it is to power than a bike with properly pumped tires. It’s no different for your car’s engine than it is for your legs. Cars.com claims that underinflated tires can reduce your efficiency by full miles per gallon. This is tricky, since it can be hard to tell whether or not your tires are fully inflated. Albeit, getting your tires checked may not be as simple and easy as the other tips listed, but keeping your tires full will undoubtedly have a profound impact on your fuel economy, so it’s worth considering.
A heavily clogged filter can affect what miles-per-gallon you get. If you’ve never changed your air filter before, or if it’s been a while, this might be a very beneficial thing to do. Talk of replacing car parts will put most people on edge. It sounds like an expensive hassle, but don’t worry—this couldn’t be easier! AutoRepair.About.com estimates that this will take you 10 minutes and will cost you less than $20! Check out their 5-step how-to guide on changing air filters out here: http://autorepair.about.com/od/regularmaintenance/ht/airfilter.htm. A little change like this could take you close to no time at all and may go a long way in fuel efficiency and general auto performance!
Shift to third gear on downgrades
When it comes to fuel economy, a little change in driving habits can go a long way (and usually these changes are either safer or more convenient anyway). Many people fall into the habit of always driving on their main drive setting, but those other transmission settings are there for a reason. Switching to third gear as you move down a steep incline will keep your car at a constant speed, so you won’t have to ride the whole way down with your foot on the break, which puts heavy wear on your engine and wastes energy (and therefore, wastes fuel). It will keep your engine running at just the right setting without accelerating more than you need to. Many people simply forget that there car has this capability. Use it! It’s easier, safer, and friendlier to you engine!
For driving on steady ground (not downhill) it’s handy to employ cruise control (also called “autocruise”), which also keeps your vehicle moving at a constant speed. This prevents you from accidentally accelerating too much and having to push on the brake a little (again, wasting energy and fuel). As a side note, make sure to use cruise control on flat surfaces and third gear on downgrade, not vice versa, as that’s what they’re each specifically designed for. If you can safely employ cruise control on the highway, you’ll save yourself some fuel and money.
Air conditioning and electronics
Some people are (understandably) under the impression that things like air conditioning and the stereo unit are run solely by the car’s battery. However, all of these things contribute to fuel consumption. Of course, we’re not advising you to drive without music and broil yourself on a hot summer’s day. But you should be aware, if you aren’t already, that such things have an effect on fuel economy. You might benefit from getting a little fresh air in the summer and rolling your windows down instead of pumping the A/C. However, there’s one other thing you should keep in mind, which is…
Driving 65mph with the windows rolled down has a similar effect to opening an umbrella when the wind is roaring. It’ll pull you back and make your engine work a lot harder to maintain 65mph. So while keeping the windows down at low speeds may save you a little fuel, you’ll be better off using the A/C at higher speeds.
Simple driving habits
You can save a lot by just keeping in mind how your driving habits affect fuel consumption. Every time you push on the brake at a red light, that’s a little bit of energy/fuel wasted (obviously, we still encourage you to observe traffic laws!). If you can make a habit of releasing the acceleration a short distance before stops, you’ll save yourself a little bit of fuel every time. And when you start moving again, don’t try to accelerate to the speed limit immediately. This will burn extra fuel getting your momentum up again. It’s better to gradually push down on the acceleration so that you steadily pick up speed again.
Bonus! Miscellaneous tip for auto-convenience
De-ice locks with hand sanitizer
For all you facing the harsh February weather, we wanted to add one other tip for your convenience. This is a pretty classic trick. Keeping some hand sanitizer on you is useful anyway for its conventional use (killing germs while you’re out in public), but if you find that your car locks have frozen, you can simply dab some of it on your locks or your key to fix the problem. Hand sanitizer has a high alcohol content, which makes it an efficient deicer. Try this out some time!
Despite the tendency of gas prices to rise, the future of fuel economy looks bright. Innovations in diesel and alternative fuels are being made, and though alternative fuels are admittedly still in a primitive state of development, there’s only room for improvement. In the meantime, using these simple techniques will do you a lot of good. Of course, responsible driving and observing the speed limit are always going to be the best ways to keep your fuel consumption down. EPA estimates that the average car gets the most fuel efficiency when driving at 50mph. They state, “You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.16 per gallon for gas.” If you check your vehicle’s owner’s manual you may be able to find the most fuel efficient mph-speed for your specific model, or it may be available online. Finding this out will help you get a feel for how you should drive your car for maximum fuel efficiency. Hopefully by now you have a pretty good feel for how to conserve fuel in general.
 Richard Backus, 2008- see more here: http://www.motherearthnews.com/green-transportation/car-engine-warm-up.aspx
 2014, more here: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/about/faq.htm#question1
 This and even more tips here! http://www.cars.com/go/advice/Story.jsp?section=fuel&subject=fuelTips&story=mpgSave
 Accessed 2/27/2015: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.jsp