For many, summer means road trips. And whether you’re planning a cross-country jaunt or just a couple of Sunday drives, those trips are bound to include more than a few gas station stops. With gas prices as astronomically high as they are these days, that means spending some money. A lot of it, in fact.
While road trips are tons of fun, watching the money in your wallet dwindle as you fill up your gas tank is … less so. With that in mind, here are 5 tips you can heed to make your car more fuel efficient, letting you drive (or get stuck in traffic) longer and make fewer visits to the gas station.
1. Optimize your tires
As you might imagine, the type and condition of your tires can significantly affect your fuel efficiency. Underinflated tires affect efficiency so much that you can increase your mileage by 3.3 percent just by properly inflating them. Plus, properly inflated tires last longer. It’s been estimated that 55 percent of people drive with underinflated tires. So be one of the other 45 percent to increase your fuel efficiency and save money on gas.
If it’s time for you to replace your tires altogether, consider eco-friendly tires. With modern improvements in tire technology, you don’t have to trade fuel efficiency for cornering and braking ability. Low-rolling-resistance tires can increase fuel efficiency by 3 to 6 percent as well as significantly outperform the previous generation of tires. And while you’re at it, make sure those tires are properly aligned for maximized driving performance.
2. Try hypermiling
What is hypermiling, you ask? It’s the practice of modifying one’s driving behavior to become more fuel-efficient. This includes braking less, driving at a steady speed, laying off the accelerator, using the correct gear, using cruise control, and driving a little slower. Aggressive driving wastes gas and can lower your gas mileage by almost 33 percent! So try hypermiling on your next road trip — you might be surprised how much you can save.
3. Don’t top off that gas tank
Gas pumps are designed to turn off automatically at a certain point to leave room for the emission system to operate correctly. When you fill up beyond that level, the extra gas can vaporize and enter the vehicle’s vapor collection system, which can disrupt engine performance. Gasoline needs room to expand, so curb the urge to give that pump an extra squeeze.
4. Give synthetic oil a shot
Synthetic oil has better viscosity and works much better in extreme hot and cold weather than mineral oil. While synthetic oil may be a bit more expensive, the benefits pay off in the long run. Synthetic oil’s improved lubrication makes it more efficient and improves your engine’s lifespan.
5. Change the air filter
When dirt, bugs, and other road detritus clog your filters, your car has to work a lot harder to run. Changing clogged air filters can increase the fuel efficiency of carbureted engines by up to 14 percent if the air filter is especially dirty. Consider changing your air filter every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Note that a recent study (PDF) has shown that changing the air filter will not improve fuel efficiency in cars with fuel-injected, computer-controlled gasoline engines — i.e., just about any car produced after the early 1980s. Those with newer models will find that fresh air filters can improve acceleration time by around 6 to 11 percent, so an air filter change is still worthwhile.
Nobody likes paying a fortune for gas, but if you follow these practices, you’ll increase fuel efficiency, improve your car’s overall performance, and do your part for the environment.