Tips for Getting Better Fuel Economy

As gas prices rise and the weather gets nicer, people tend to drive more. Whether you drive a hybrid or an Escalade, there are things you can do to improve your vehicle's fuel economy.

  • Start with with basic maintenance. If you are driving around with an activated "check engine" or "service engine" light, then you are wasting gas. Today's vehicles have computers that monitor engine efficiency.
  • Always follow the vehicle's preventive maintenance schedule. Changing spark plugs and filters is very important. An engine that is out of tune could cause a 5 percent drop in fuel efficiency. If you are driving with a faulty coolant or oxygen sensor, you may see up to a 25 percent reduction in fuel economy.
  • Something as simple as low tire pressure can also impact fuel mileage. According to the EPA, you can improve your vehicle's gas mileage by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure.
  • Weight is an enemy, so don't use your car as a storage locker. Vehicle manufacturers spend thousands of dollars to eliminate just a few excess pounds. Each season, go through your car and remove unnecessary items. Storage pods, ski racks and even cross bars on a roof rack can all have a negative impact. A large cargo box is handy for carrying those extras for the family vacation, but it can reduce fuel economy by up to 20 percent. An extra 100 pounds of weight can reduce it by 2 percent.

All of these tips can help get the most out of your gas money, but the biggest savings is determined by how you drive. The adage of driving like there is a raw egg between your foot and the gas and brake pedal still holds true. By going easy on the gas and avoiding "jack-rabbit" starts and hard braking, you can improve overall fuel economy.

  • To get your vehicle up to speed requires energy. Anytime you need to brake quickly, it means you are wasting that energy. Focus your attention down the road to anticipate changing traffic conditions.
  • Maintain the speed limit, as speeding doesn't just increase the chance of getting a ticket, it wastes fuel. Cars tend to be most fuel efficient on the highway between 55 and 65 miles per hour.
  • When your car is stopped and idling, it is getting zero miles per gallon. Skip the long line at the drive-through and park. When stuck in traffic for extended periods of time, consider shutting the car off to save fuel. Lengthy engine warm-ups are not necessary—a minute or two is sufficient, even in cold weather.
  • Plan your trips. Think of your car as if it's on a bus route going logically from one stop to the next. Using your car as a taxicab by making many short trips that overlap is far less efficient and wastes time and gas.
  • When it comes to gas, don't buy premium fuel unless your car requires it. Premium gas will not make your car run any better, and it will cost you extra money.
  • If you have more than one vehicle in your household, use the one that gets the best fuel economy for running errands or making other quick trips. Finally, avoid driving if possible. Car-pooling can have a dramatic effect on your yearly fuel bill.

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