June 24, 2014

Simple Tips for Better Gas Mileage by The KEY

Summer in Oklahoma doesn’t just mean higher temperatures. It also means higher gas prices. Increased demand and reduced production during spring and early summer boost fuel prices year after year. If you aren’t careful, you could end up paying an arm and a leg at every fill-up. However, by following The KEY’s top tips for improving your gas mileage, you’ll get to cruise by the gas station day after day and keep your dollars where they belong – your wallet.

Tip 1: Don’t Drive Aggressively

The single biggest way to change how much fuel you burn when driving is changing how you drive. Aggressive driving practices like rapid acceleration, hard braking, and high speeds burn fuel at a much faster rate than more conservative driving. The reason for this is simple: your engine uses more gas when its running at higher RPMs, like when accelerating quickly or driving above the speed limit. One study found that for every 5 miles per hour you drive over 60, you cost yourself the equivalent of an extra 20 cents per gallon.

To save fuel, simply slow yourself down when you’re on the road. Don’t try to be the fastest car on the highway or burn from stoplight to stoplight in town. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that by driving less aggressively and sticking with the flow of traffic, you can save 5% of your gas while driving in the city and as much as 23% on the highway. That’s a huge saving, and it could make a big difference in your fuel bills.

Tip 2: Reduce Weight

Take a look in the trunk of your car. Is it clean and empty, or is it full of junk? If you answered the latter, you could be costing yourself money. The more weight your car has to haul around day to day, the more fuel it will use. That means more frequent fill-ups.

If you’re carrying around stuff in your backseat or trunk – boxes from work, golf clubs, and so on – consider putting them in the garage when you don’t need them instead of carrying them around. The EPA estimates that every 100 pounds extra your car carries around reduces fuel economy by 1-2%. That might not sound like much, but it can’t hurt.

Tip 3: Perform Regular Maintenance

Car engines might seem like huge, tough blocks of metal, but they’re really a delicately-balanced piece of machinery. If it’s not maintained properly, it won’t function as well as it should. There are a number of regular maintenance actions you should perform that can impact fuel economy, including:

  • Changing the oil regularly and using the proper oil weight in your car. For more about oil changes, take a look at our blog on the subject.
  • Changing your air filter. A dirty or clogged air filter can reduce your MPGs, especially on older cars with carburetors instead of digital fuel injection.
  • Getting your engine tuned up. If your engine is out of tune or if parts need to be replaced, you could be spending way too much on gas. For instance, replacing a malfunctioning air sensor could improve your mileage by as much as 40%!

Tip 4: Check Your Tires

In addition to regular engine maintenance, your tires also have a big role in your mileage. Tires with too little air in them don’t roll as well and take more energy to move, making your engine work harder. In turn, that makes it use more gas.

Luckily, keeping your tires properly inflated is one of the simplest car maintenance tasks you can do. Most gas stations have an air compressor where you can check your tire pressure and fill them up if they’re too low. If you don’t know how full your tires should be, there is a sticker permanently attached to your car that will tell you the proper tire pressure. Usually it can be found on the driver’s side door or door frame, though it may also be on your trunk lid or in the glove box. Information on how to fill your tires can be found in your owner’s manual.

Tip 5: Avoid the Roof Rack

Aerodynamics are a huge part of your car’s mileage. Cars today are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible. But if you change the profile of your car by stacking cargo boxes, bicycles, or other items on the roof, you’ll suffer a huge loss in fuel economy as a result. When you’re not using your roof rack, you should always remove cargo boxes, bike racks, or other items that could create drag and make your car work harder.

We know that sometimes it’s impossible to avoid using the roof rack. The items you’re moving might be too big to fit into the car’s trunk or cargo bay, or maybe you’re going on a family trip and you need every inch of space you can get. In these cases you might have to use an external luggage box or strap something to your roof rack. To reduce their impact, practice conservative driving tactics and obey the speed limits. You’ll still suffer from some reduced mileage, but it won’t be as dramatic.

BONUS: Three Gas-Saving Tips that You SHOULDN’T Do!

In the quest to save fuel, some people will go to extreme lengths. However, there are some common MPG-improving tips that are dumb, dangerous, or just plain wrong. Here are a few of the things you shouldn’t do when trying to save fuel:

Tip 1: Don’t Drive With Your Tailgate Down

If you own a pickup, you might think that driving with your tailgate down makes your car more aerodynamic. After all, a raised tailgate is like a flat wall that blocks air from just rushing out the back of your truck, right? Wrong.

In truth, driving with your tailgate down can hurt your mileage. Trucks today are designed so the bed creates a vortex – basically a cushion of slow-moving air behind the cab. This cushion prevents too much drag from forming behind your truck’s cab. However, putting the tailgate down evaporates the cushion. Instead, air will rush over the cab and push down on the tailgate, creating more drag and reducing your fuel economy. In other words, to save on gas, put your tailgate up.

Tip 2: Don’t Draft

Some drivers use a sneaky tactic to get better mileage. Instead of driving around large vehicles like tractor-trailers, they’ll pull up right behind them and drive in the slipstream. This tactic reduces the amount of work the engine has to do, since there’s less air to push out of the way. However, drafting a truck or other large vehicle is also extremely dangerous, especially at highway speeds.

First, getting close enough to a truck or bus to be in the slipstream usually puts you in the truck’s blind spot. Unless they have carefully-positioned mirrors or a rear-facing camera, it’s all too likely that the driver can’t see you. They might brake hard or change lanes suddenly, which could easily result in a crash. Also, if the truck’s tire pops or delaminates – a frequent occurrence at highway speeds – the flying rubber could strike your car with enough force to injure or kill the occupants.

Second, drafting gives you much less time to react and reduces your visibility. If you can’t see what’s going on on the road ahead, you won’t be able to plan and are much more likely to have an accident. In this case, it’s best to leave the drafting to the racecar drivers.

Tip 3: Don’t Use “Gas-Saving” Add-Ons or Fuel Additives

You might have seen commercials for a gasoline additive that claims to improve your fuel economy, or devices that bolt onto your engine that say they will give you more miles to the gallon. While they look tempting, beware. The Federal Trade Commission and the EPA both say that most of these fuel-saving gadgets and additives are scams, and many will even harm your engine or make your fuel economy worse.

This even goes for an extremely-common gas mistake: using higher-octane gas. Some people think using premium or ultra-premium gas will give them better mileage, but in truth the octane rating has nothing to do with the efficiency of the fuel. Use the minimum octane your engine will tolerate. Otherwise you’re just wasting money.

Tired of paying huge sums at the pump to fill up your old beater? You should come to The KEY, Oklahoma City’s number one buy here pay here car dealership, to find yourself a newer, more efficient car. We have a huge selection of vehicles to choose from, many of which get better than 40 miles per gallon. Visit us today or get pre-approved online in less than two minutes. Or follow us on Facebook and Google+ for the latest news and special deals!


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