Everyone wants to save on fuel, but not everyone wants to trade in their current ride for a hybrid, or get on the diesel bandwagon. Don't worry - there are plenty of things you can do that don't involve spending money or turning your back on your pickup, minivan, sedan, or sports car. Making changes to the way you drive, the way you look after your car, and how you approach the concept of fuel savings can help ensure that you don't end up spending more cash on gas that you absolutely have to.
Let's take a quick look at 8 ways to save on fuel.
When cruising through downtown from light-to-light, one of the worst things you can do in terms of gas mileage is to be hard on the go-pedal each and every time you see a flash of green. There's no point in accelerating quickly just to slam the brakes on a few intersections later, as your engine ends up consuming way more fuel than is really needed to travel the same distance at a more reasonable pace. The same goes for accelerating when on the highway: it's far better from an efficiency perspective to plan your passing and look for gaps in traffic ahead than to shoot from opportunity to opportunity using spurts of the throttle.
By the same token, using the brakes too often, or too late, can also sap valuable dollars from your fuel budget. Just as you need to plan your passing, in all driving scenarios - city, country, and Interstate - you want to use the brakes as part of a stopping strategy, not as a reaction to the traffic around you. If you know there's a stop sign approaching, begin to slow down well beforehand - don't race up to the sign and slam on the binders. On the highway, try not to ride the brakes down a hill when you can coast and use gravity to your advantage. In fact, with a manual transmission coasting will often shut down engine fuel delivery altogether, letting you brake using the motor and save gas at the same time.
There are two schools of thought regarding whether cruise control can save you on fuel costs. The first is that since a computer has no way to read the topography of the road ahead, it's better to use your human brain to decide when to apply or back off of the accelerator on the highway (note: some cars can now actually make use of navigation data to adjust throttle application via active cruise control, rendering this argument moot). Technology aside, the second camp claims that it's hard to stay concentrated on a longer trip to the point where you are able to be precise enough with your right foot to beat a computer's steady hand. For most drivers, in most situations, cruise control will offer the best possible fuel mileage per hundred miles of driving.
Every single additional pound of weight that you carry in your car is going to result in an increase in fuel consumption. We're not saying you need to go on a crash diet to save a few bucks, but that gym bag that’s been sitting in your trunk for a couple of weeks probably doesn't need to be there. Neither does the shovel that was so useful in winter time but is now just dead weight in the month of July, or the case of oil that you keep forgetting to take into the garage. A clean car is a light car is an efficient car.
Once upon a time, engines needed to sit and idle for five to ten minutes before they could be trusted to offer reliable transportation on days when the mercury dropped below zero. Those days are far behind us - you can now turn the key, put it in drive, and pull out of your parking spot right away no matter how cold it might be outside. Unfortunately, a lot of 'received wisdom' from the darker days of automotive engineering is still lurking around water coolers, family tables, and parts counters, resulting in wasted fuel. Don't warm up your car so you can reap the savings instead of following the herd.
Basic physics dictates that it's always going to take more energy to move a given mass at a higher speed than it would at a lower one. You might get to where you are going a few minutes faster if you cruise at 10 miles over the speed limit, but you'll definitely be using more gas along the way. Cars are designed to be the most fuel efficient at or around the 55-65 mile per hour range, in order to reflect the legal speed limits of most American highways. Pushing past this rate of travel doesn’t just run the risk of attracting the attention of local law enforcement, but it also boosts your monthly fuel bill.
Old spark plugs, clogged air filters, and used-up engine oil all exact a toll on your engine's efficiency. Every car's owner's manual offers a suggested maintenance interval for the most crucial components under its hood, and it's well worth adhering to that schedule in order to save on fuel as much as possible. You won't have to change out any of these items all that often, but ignoring them completely is a recipe for choking your engine to the point where it can no longer maximize the amount of energy generated by the gasoline it's burning.
It might seem like a basic concept, but making sure you have the right amount of air in each of your tires is an important factor in reducing the amount of fuel that your car consumes. It's not always easy to tell if you car's tires are low just by doing a visual inspection, so it's worth breaking out an air pressure gauge once a month to check and see if you need to add any air at any of your vehicle's four corners. Remember to use the manufacturer's recommended pressure - not the maximum pressure listed on the door jamb - and you'll do just fine.