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Increasing Your Car's MPG

All too often, people complain about the miles per gallon their car is getting. They do comparisons to others that have similar cars and assume that something must be wrong since they are getting vastly different results. When it really comes down to it, though, this is not necessarily the fault of the car, and is often resolved by the driver starting to practice better driving habits. This article is designed as an informative and teaching article to help better understand what you can do to increase the mileage that your car is getting. Please note that while this should help if you are not already practicing these things, there can also be underlying problems to why you are getting bad mileage. As such, “your mileage may vary” is quite literal here. With that said, let us begin!

Acceleration – The Big Gas Killer

We have heard this time and time again, but many people do not understand just how true this is. After all, we want to get where we are going much faster, right? Well, here lies the problem. When you are putting your foot down further on the pedal, you are increasing the amount of gas that is being burned (which is where the increase in the engine's power is coming from). This, as you might have already assumed, means that you are going through more fuel. Instead of gasing the car to go faster, slowly speed up. This will cut down on the fuel that you are wasting (ie. The fuel that is not getting you anywhere, and is simply there to get you up to speed quicker) and still get you where you want to be. It will take a little longer by using this method, but it is a great way to cut down on wear and tear and gas usage in your car. It is important, however, to realize that this is not always an option. If you are moving over in to traffic or have to make it in front of other vehicles, sometimes you will be forced to floor it. Even so, you want to avoid it as much as possible if you want to shoot for efficiency with your fuel. It really is something that you will have to train yourself to do, as it is not something we deal with often. Just keep at it and over time it will become second nature!

Speed – A Big Problem

There is a saying that if you speed up from 60 to 70, you are using 15% more fuel. Well, we are going about 15% faster, so this would make sense, right? Not exactly. While the 15% increase is accurate, what it means is 15% more than you would normally increase it by (for example, the actual increase would be around 30%, but 15% of that is essentially wasted). This misconception has been causing problems for as long as I can remember, as people hear it and do not realize what it really means. I am sure that different vehicles will also have different effects from speed increases, but in any case, you can give this a try on your own (just be sure you keep close tabs on your miles per gallon between the two speeds). It will become pretty noticeable before long.

The recommended speed to go for is usually around 55 miles per hour. This is seen as the most efficient in terms of miles per gallon, and is also close to the general speed limit on highways. So if you are really shooting for maximizing the potential of your vehicle, this is the way to go. Keep in mind, however, that this will almost always put you below the speed of the other traffic, which can put you in some other risky situations. So really you have to decide what is important; keeping up with the other vehicles or saving money (and footprint in terms of emissions) by driving more efficiently.

Vehicle Weight

This is sort of what I would consider as a hidden efficiency determinant. Depending on how much your vehicle weighs, the miles per gallon it will achieve will vary. Big vehicles are a bit more obvious with this. Buses and trucks, for example, get pretty bad gas mileage. But there are also some other ways weight can play a role that you need to watch out for, such as:

  • The items you are carrying – each item adds some more weight to the car
  • The number of people you are carrying – while they are not items, they still add weight
  • The relative amount of stuff within the car. Two seaters will weigh a lot less than those with back seats, for example

This is in no way to say that you should not take others for a ride. But if you are carrying a lot of stuff in the trunk or on or inside the vehicle, you need to evaluate whether or not it is really needed. Just by removing the items you do not need, you will make your vehicle run more efficiently. How much will depend on what all is removed and what vehicle you are driving, but you can rest assured that there will be a difference.

If you want to know the reason behind why this works the way it does, it is because more weight is harder to move. Try pushing a large box and then try pushing a light box. It is easy to tell which one used more work, and in vehicle terms this means it is using more fuel. Cars work just the same way we do in that aspect!

Coasting for Gas Conservation

A big problem we have while driving is that we often wait until we are almost right where we want to stop before we start slowing down. Until that point, many people will even still have their foot on the gas. This is a habit that is a little tough to get out of, although it is pretty important if you want to conserve fuel.

Instead of waiting until the last minute, when you see where you want to stop just let go of the gas. From there, you can usually coast to where you are stopping at, which cuts down on the fuel usage dramatically. And in the vast majority of cases, it does not extend your trip very long, being that you were going to have to stop anyways. And by doing this on a consistent basis, especially if you are doing a lot of city driving, you will see a major increase in gas mileage. It also helps cut down on wear and tear since you are not constantly using your brakes, which can go to save even more money outside of the gas alone.

Cruise Control

If you are driving and do not use cruise control, you need to. If you are driving a car that does not even have it installed, you may want to look in to a new vehicle. Not only does cruise control make it much easier for you to drive since you are not trying to keep the car at a steady pace, but you also benefit from enhanced gas mileage. This happens because you are not constantly speeding up and slowing down the car, and it can keep things going at its highest efficiency. Tack this on with the amount of work you no longer have to do and it is pretty easy to see how valuable it is!

City vs Highway Driving

Depending on the type of car you are driving, one of these will always be more efficient than the other. With the Prius and electric cars (and possibly other hybrids), city driving is more efficient because of a system called regenerative braking (which charges a battery when pushing the brakes, that helps drive the car). With most others, including all gas vehicles, however, highway driving is more efficient.

When you plan your path, you should always do it based on what is more efficient for your vehicle. There are usually multiple ways to get to places, and this is even more true when traveling large distances. Planning ahead of time to work out a path that is best for your vehicle type can go a long way towards increasing your gas mileage and saving you money. Of course, this may not always be preferable. There are some people who like to avoid the highway or avoid city streets, for example. You really just have to decide what you feel the most comfortable with and then roll with it.

Conclusion

Contrary to popular belief, your car's efficiency is not limited only to the vehicle itself. How you drive and how you plan around your trips can make a huge impact on how much gas you are using. It will also impact the wear and tear you are subjecting your vehicle to, which can decrease the costs of ownership. But just like anything else, you have to continually work at getting better if you really want to see the merits of your work. Just driving more efficiently one time will definitely help, but it will help more if you keep it up over the long haul. And once you get adapted to it well enough, it is very simple to keep the good habits going.

If you want to see how well your changes are affecting your gas mileage, you can start up a spreadsheet. What you want to log is how much you spent in gas and how many miles this got you. You can keep up with the number of miles by using the “trip” setting on your odometer, and you do not need to run down the gas tank all the way to see how well you did; simply plug in the number of gallons you filled up and what your trip meter says (and then reset it after). Then set up a third column for the miles per gallon and set it as gallons used divided by the number of miles gone. This will tell you how many miles per gallon you got. Now you can keep this list and add on to it and easily see whether your mileage is going up or down, and even by how much! I do this anyways to help learn if there are any problems I need to be aware of with my vehicles, and it also goes to help keep a running log to push for better and better gas mileage with each fill up. Regardless as to how you handle it, you want to figure out what will make you personally want to get better, and then do what it takes to make that happen.

Cars


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