How to Get Better Gas Mileage
You know how it is, you buy a car expecting the manufacturer’s claims about gas mileage to be truthful. And the reality is that they’re set under laboratory conditions. So, you’re never going to reach that level of consumption, and that’s from brand new. Add a few thousand miles on the odometer, and it’s like a lottery, but these great tips will help you improve your gas mileage.
First up, we need to understand just how and why gas mileage varies so much.
All manufacturers are now under CAFE legislation, this is Corporate Average Fuel Economy, meaning that across their range, they need to comply with a set figure. They may have a 500+ horsepower fire-breathing monster. But, they also need to try to offset that with something that produces nothing more than unicorn friendly gas from the tailpipe.
It’s long been known that emissions figures are somewhat unrealistic. That’s because of the way that the figures are measured. An engine is tested in a dyno cell with controlled temperatures and loads and pressures.
Plus, it’s ‘driven’ in such a way that it would be simply unachievable in the real world. And of course, there is no wind resistance or further external elements that could reduce the efficiency of the motor. This all adds up to a huge mile per gallon performance.
Even when the whole vehicle is tested on a rolling road, it still favors the manufacturer, and then, of course, we have instances such as the great Volkswagen scandal of 2015, which is estimated to have cost the brand around $55bn to date. The owners based in the UK still haven’t received any form of payout as yet, with VW offering to remove the defeat device free of charge.
Your gas mileage can be affected by so many things, from general wear on the engine (making it less efficient) to mechanical deficiencies, wind resistance, weather (particularly on a forced-induction engine), or just plain old neglect.
The good news is that finding a few extra mpg’s is relatively easy and cheap. There’s no reason why you can’t achieve the same as a vehicle that’s new, and perhaps even a few more with the right choice of accessories.
Which brings me nicely to my next point. Fuel maximizers, cheat devices, combustion technology. Whatever you call them, 99% of it is hokum.
It’s difficult to single one out (there are quite literally hundreds), but essentially the marketing schmooze will tell you that they work through changing the properties of the air, the burn or by fooling the engine’s control unit into thinking the air temperature is different. Whilst it’s true that you may find one that has a very minor effect on the fueling strategy, we’re talking <0.5%, so it will take forever to even pay for itself, never mind give you a return.
The very first item of business should be ensuring that your car is well serviced. If you’re looking to make things better, you need to start with a good baseline. For that, you need to put the engine as close to manufacturers’ specifications as possible. Having your exhaust manifold leaking gases everywhere under the hood is more than dangerous and it’ll cost you efficiency. Any significant problems should be dealt with first.
Equally, a brake pad and rotor that’s sticking slightly could be costing you around 7% of mpg, so whatever you do, you’re fighting a losing battle (and it will only get worse).
Once you’ve made sure that the car is in good mechanical condition, there are a few things that you should do. Starting literally from the ground up – the tire’s rolling resistance can account for around 30% of fuel consumption, and a 10% drop in tire pressure will affect the efficiency of any tire – that could be as little as 3 pounds of pressure.
You should always try and keep your tires correctly inflated – grab a mobile tire inflator with a gauge to keep in your toolkit or trunk, and you’ll never need to worry about them again.
Having said that, some brands are now manufacturing energy-saving tires that could see you saving around 7.5% on your fuel bill, definitely worth it if you’re a high-mileage driver.
For those of you that like to mod your car or find that extra few horsepower, performance intake filters are a huge thing. They quite often release another 5 horsepower or so. It may not sound a lot, but when you’re looking for everything possible, it’s worth it.
But, a dirty intake filter is one of the biggest culprits for costing you money. You’ll lose around 10% of the engine’s efficiency if you don’t replace the intake filter regularly, and it doesn’t need to be some fancy-schmancy filter, a standard filter or even aftermarket is better than a dirty one.
How many of you have roof bars fitted to your vehicle? They sure do give a rugged look, and of course, they’re useful if you’re carrying plenty of stuff, but what happens if you’re just driving around with them fitted for no reason? (I’m as guilty as anyone for this). Just because they finish the styling of your vehicle?
I have bad news for you. Depending on the vehicle and the roof bars, they could be robbing up to 25% of your fuel efficiency. That’s like setting fire to twenty-five bucks each time you gas up, just because they look great.
And it doesn’t stop there. Pickup truck owners that don’t utilize a tonneau cover are losing up to 10% in fuel efficiency. Imagine both of those together? You may as well junk that small 3.2 V6 and get a V8.
Engine tuning is where it gets slightly more complicated. More specifically, diesel tuning.
Yes, we all know that diesel is the work of the devil, but a monster V8 supercharged diesel just gives mountains of torque; enough to lug the world around. If that’s your thing, getting it reworked properly could be a potential money saver.
The math is simple. The engine is creating more power, so it doesn’t need to be driven as hard to give the same work-rate. This means that driving like-for-like will save you money. The problem is that once you’ve got more power, it’s nice to use it. But, if you do, you’ll actually be paying more money. It’s almost like a catch 22 situation, purely dependent on how restrained you can be with your gas pedal.
These gas saving tips will save you money. They’ll perhaps give you up to an extra 30% in your efficiency. But, it really depends on what you’re working with. A brand new vehicle without all the roof bars or dirty intake filter won’t improve much. With that said, energy-saving tires will still save you dollars at the pump.
The final thing that you should think about is driving style. Foot to the firewall, driving like your hair is on fire will use plenty’o’gas, whereas a more refined style with gentle acceleration, braking, and minimal input will help you join the hypermiling club.