In high school I owned a 1990 Jeep Cherokee Sport, which was a gas guzzler. I got about 18 mpg on average which was already better than most Inline 6 engines. I did however manage to get 26 mpg on a cool fall day while returning to the University of Florida from home. I drove at 60 mph, windows up, and no A/C, but I did have the vent and radio on. Read on for every tip I could think of:
Tried and True Gas Savings
Don’t go over 60 miles per hour– This is where wind resistance really starts to drag.(Ha)
Use your A/C on the highway(or not) – As your velocity increases, keeping your windows down is like having a giant parachute behind you that your car has to drag behind it. You will burn less gas and be more comfortable by using the A/C.
Don’t use your A/C – I know what I just said above, but if you want to save even more gas, drive on the highway with the windows up and no A/C.
Use Cruise Control – There is a caveat here. Cruise control will save gas when there are few elevation changes because it will be better at maintaining smooth throttle control. BUT, once you get into steep mountains or higher elevation where there is less oxygen, it is better to avoid downshifting if you can. Cruise control tends to overcompensate and will send you flying down the other side of the hill 15 – 20 mph over the speed limit.
Use hills to your advantage – Try to go over a bridge or hill just fast enough that you maintain the speed limit on the way downhill without stepping on the gas.
Go in the direction of the wind – Difficult to plan around, but will save you gas. In particular on the highway.
Keep your distance – Every time you hit the brake pedal, you waste precious momentum. Keeping a few car lengths in front of you is often enough so that you can slow down without tapping the brakes every time the person in front of you taps theirs.
Moderate acceleration – Too brisk and you end up pouring gas in the engine. Too slow and you’ll never make it to cruising speed before the next traffic light(even slow acceleration uses a lot of gasoline, that’s why a moderate acceleration is best)
Reduce the weight of you car – Do you really need $100 in pennies in your center console? No. . . You can take this one lightly(Ha) and just clean the clutter out of your car. Or you could do something more practical like removing the spare tire while you drive around town and putting it back in for long trips. As long as you have family to help you out, you’ll make it. For each 100 pounds you remove you will (supposedly, and will obviously vary by car) increase your mileage by 1 mpg. Extreme measures would include swapping things like seats, rims, and glass, but that would cost much more than you would likely save.
Make sure your Air filter is clean – Anything that makes it easier for your engine to breath will also improve your miles per gallon and save you gas. If you’re looking to save a dime, try and clean it with compressed air.
Keep your tires inflated – It is best and safest to stick with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Anything below is wasting tread and gas. There are some groups that advocate going beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations. This would theoretically decrease rolling resistance, BUT, it will also increase the distance it takes you to stop and make for a bumpier ride. The maximum allowable pressure is printed on the sidewall of your tire. Manufacturer’s choose a balance between safe stopping distance, comfort, and tread wear when choosing tire pressures.
Keep up with your other maintenance – Dirty, old spark plugs and clogged fuel injectors don’t help gasoline turn your crankshaft. Obviously there is a balance here because these parts will cost money. Best to find a friend who knows about cars or buy yourself one of those do it yourself books for your car.
Check the obvious – Your gas cap is securely tightened(so you don’t spill gas while turning and avoid evaporative losses) OR you have a plastic piece/etc hanging from your undercarriage and catching the wind because of some cheap plastic fasteners.
Don’t idle unnecessarily (Unless you’re wife is breastfeeding in the back seat and its 90 degrees out) – No this doesnt mean turn off your car at stop lights, Keep reading.
Use energy conserving oil – Make sure the oil you use is Energy Conserving(on the label on the back of the plastic jug)
Carpool or ride a bike – Good for your social, emotional, and physical health.
Not worth it
Waxing your car – Supposedly decreases your cars wind resistance. I believe that this is plausible, but I’m not sure the savings are worth the effort(or the cost of the wax for that matter)
Turning off your car at long stop lights – Unless you have a Prius or other hybrid that handles this automagically, don’t bother. For one, if the light is longer than 1 minute you are subjecting your engine to additional wear (the engine is well oiled while running so that there is virtually zero wear, but after 1 minute it will undergo additional wear while the engine cranks and the oil returns). Two, you’ll be burning additional fuel starting the engine back up. Three, you’ll be placing additional wear on your transmission(automatics) by shifting from drive to park and vice versa. Four, its annoying because everyone has to wait for your engine to start and you to shift.
Drafting – A technique where you get very, VERY close to the car in front of you so that your car does not have to fight the wind resistance. In order to get any benefit from this your car would have to be closer than about a foot from the car in front of you, making an accident inevitable should the car in front of you brake. A car accident would quickly wreck your savings.