Each time you fill up at the pump you're not just draining your bank account, you're also taking a bite out of the environment. If you're looking to increase your car's fuel economy in order to save some money and maybe even the planet, you may want to adopt some gas-saving practices from the eco-driving (or 'energy-efficient') movement. Eco-driving means using driving techniques to increase gas mileage in vehicles by reducing bad habits and car functions that might lower mileage.
Simple, every day eco-driving tactics
- Be smooth with both the accelerator and the brakes. Drive with a less aggressive attitude. Don't race up to stoplights or stop signs and then slam on the brakes. Let your car's momentum do most of the non-fuel-burning work, and then re-accelerate slowly and gently again. Busy intersections may require a less gentle approach to accelerating into or out of traffic in order to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and other approaching vehicles.
- Drive the speed limit or just below. Don't go so slowly that you become a road hazard or create frustration for other drivers, but just driving the posted limit instead 3-5 miles per hour over it can boost mileage. In fact, for every 5 mph you go over 50 mph, it's the same as adding about 17 cents to the cost of each gallon of gas. When driving on highways, avoid the left lane that's generally used for faster traffic. This will reduce the chances of becoming an obstruction for other drivers while you are cruising at or slightly below the speed limit.
- Set the cruise control. One of the central rules of eco-driving is maintaining a steady, even speed. Your cruise control will help prevent unnecessary speeding up and braking and keep your speed from slowly creeping higher.
- Avoid excessive idling. In the driveway, a parking lot, or even a drive-through, turn off the engine if you think you'll be stopped more than 30 seconds. Do not, however, turn it off at stoplights. Doing so makes it hard to safely get out of harm's way if there's a sudden problem.
Make your car more fuel-efficient
- Keep your engine well-maintained. Regular tune-ups can greatly improve your mileage.
- Remove excess weight. Minimize heavy items in your trunk and your car in general.
- Reduce aerodynamic drag. If you're not using them, take off things like luggage or bike racks - aerodynamic drag is one of the chief factors in lowering gas mileage.
- Properly inflate tires. Never over-inflate tires, but just keeping them filled at the high end of the recommended pressure will help reduce road friction.
- Use a low-weight, light-viscosity oil. It will improve your engine performance, but stay within the factory recommended weight and viscosity for advanced mileage savings. Switching to a synthetic engine oil can sometimes improve mileage.
For advanced mileage savings
- Turn off the air conditioning and roll up the windows. Yes, it sounds sweaty, but if you're really serious about saving gas, not only turning off the AC but also keeping the windows up (to reduce drag at speeds over 40 mph) will raise your mileage. If you need some air, turn on the vent and crack your driver and right rear windows an inch to create a cross-flow.
- Use the recommended gas for your car. Going lower than the recommended octane may reduce fuel economy, while going higher won't help as your engine will be unable to take full advantage of premium fuel.
- Seek out alternate driving routes. If you have the time, look for more level roads with less traffic and fewer stops and sharp turns.
You don't have to go to extremes, or get 75 mpg to make a difference. Just be a more aware driver and eliminate some bad, gas-guzzling driving habits, and you'll be doing both the environment and your pocketbook a big favor.
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