Car nuts come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re a power and speed fiend or you just like to enjoy a nice, long drive, one thing holds true: We’re all trying to save gas when we can. Without a doubt, the biggest expense in owning a vehicle is fuel, and, while prices are lower than they’ve been in recent years, getting better mpgs is a universal goal. Here are some tips on how to save fuel:
By the Numbers
Miles per gallon is really nothing more than a number; literally, it’s the distance you’ve traveled divided by the amount of fuel you used to do so. Since we’re talking numbers, here a few that affect your fuel economy:
- Tire pressure: Tire manufacturers recommend you inflate your tires to 32 psi, but when considering fuel mileage, a lot of economy junkies pump that up to 35 and even 40 psi. A harder tire may not have as much grip, but it does have less resistance with the pavement — yielding better fuel mileage.
- Fewer trips: You can get better fuel economy by mapping your trips out and combining them in to one trip rather than making separate runs.
- Engine temperature: Your vehicle’s engine runs more efficiently when it’s up to temperature, so warming it up can also help mileage. This doesn’t mean letting it run in your driveway before you head out; that actually does the opposite. However, making your longest trip first allows your engine to get warmer and hold the heat for the rest of your stops, which means better fuel efficiency.
- Fewer left turns: A more extreme technique used by many delivery services is to try to minimize the amount of left-hand turns they make. Making rights doesn’t require stopping and starting again while you wait for traffic. Put simply, making lefts leaves you sitting on the road idling and wasting fuel only to consume more getting your vehicle moving again.
Race fans will love this. Cutting through the air and not wasting energy is the way you make a car go fast on a track, but it’s also a way to save gas on the road. There are myths and tales of secrets to save fuel, but when it comes down to it, you can’t deny physics.
Speaking of physics, let’s consider the kinetic energy of the car while it’s moving. Quickly changing direction requires more energy than traveling in a straight line, which makes the engine work harder. When driving, use smooth movements to conserve momentum. Many people also claim that starting and stopping quickly wastes fuel, but studies have shown that getting up to speed quicker actually uses less fuel. Lower gears in the transmission are not as fuel-efficient, so getting up to cruising gears yields better fuel mileage.
Additionally, some say that using the AC wastes gas. While they’re correct in thinking that the engine works harder turning additional components, they’re not considering the work designers put into aerodynamics. At 55 mph, the drag of having the windows down is nearly the same as rolling them up and running the AC. Going faster improves mileage with them rolled up, but if you’re driving around town at lower speeds, roll them down and nix the AC.
Saving fuel is a matter of math and science. Armed with some simple numbers and concepts of kinetic energy, you can cut your fuel mileage significantly.
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Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.