2008-06-29

Real world tips to increase fuel economy  

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Here are some basic proven tips to increase fuel economy. Keep in mind that there usually isn’t one big change that will magically double your mileage. The key to success for me was to make many small changes that had a cumulative effect.

• Tire pressure- Some people call this a myth, but there is no myth. Higher pressure equals less rolling resistance, which means better fuel economy. At the very least you should maintain the manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure. Check your tire pressure at least every 30 days. Many people have increased their tire pressure beyond the recommended inflation pressure and seen even greater increases in fuel economy, but I wouldn’t recommend this, unless you understand the trade offs and potential safety risks in doing so, mainly less traction. I increased my tire pressure to 35 psi, which is slightly above the recommended pressure, but still well below the max sidewall pressure, and was able to see a measurable increase in mileage. There is an excellent site called www.cleanmpg.com that has some articles and discussion around the risks and benefits of higher than normal tire pressures.

• Low rolling resistance tires - Buy tires with lower rolling resistance. Consumer Reports.org includes tire rolling resistance testing in their tire test, and they claim it can save 1-2 mpg. Sounds reasonable to me. It probably doesn’t make financial sense to run out and buy them now, but consider rolling resistance when your car is ready for tires.

• Oxygen (O2) sensors – Most fuel economy guides overlook this one, but a faulty oxygen sensor can have a significant impact on fuel economy. O2 sensors diminish with age. Older sensors become sluggish and their voltage drops, causing the sensor to show leaner that it actually is. This will make your car run richer, and use more fuel.

• Synthetic oil - I recommend switching to synthetic motor oil, and using the lightest grade recommended by your vehicle manufacturer, which is often 5w-30. Just do me a favor, don’t ask me to justify the cost. I’m not sure the minimal increases in fuel mileage justify the added cost of the oil, but there are additional benefits, such as better engine protection, longer oil change durations, and longer engine life. WWW.cleanmpg.com has some discussions around using lower than recommended viscosity for additional fuel efficiency.

• Spark plugs and ignition wires – Check you vehicle’s maintenance schedule for the recommended replacement interval and stick to it.

• Get rid of the roof rack. It reduces wind resistance and some estimates put savings at 1 or 2 mpg. If you are carrying around one of those giant Thule luggage carriers, then your savings will be substantially higher.

• If you have 4 wheel drive, turn it off. Most cars should see better fuel economy in 2 wheel drive mode. Better yet, buy the 2 wheel drive model next time, which is less expensive to buy, maintain, and operate.

• Consider getting a manual transmission on your next car. They are usually more efficient, and they give the driver more flexibility to maximize fuel saving techniques while driving.

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