Over the last decade, gas prices have been, ahem, volatile to say the least and lend further credence to Newtonian physics: What goes up must come down (but back up again? Seriously?).
If you’re concerned about the erratic highs and lows of gas prices or want to minimize your carbon footprint, check out these 5 ways you can optimize your car’s fuel efficiency and safeguard your wallet.
1. Keep your tires properly inflated
As you may already know, the condition of your tires can significantly impact your fuel economy. For instance, tires that are underinflated by 8 pounds (a relatively common condition) may increase rolling resistance by about 5 percent, thus working your gas overtime.
Not only do deflated tires shirk you of fuel efficiency, but drivers with tires that are more than 25 percent underinflated are prone to overheating and 3 times more likely to be involved in a tire-related auto accident. By checking your tires at least once a month, you may be able to improve your fuel economy by 3.3 percent (and improve your driving safety too).
If your tires are on their last legs, though, consider replacing them with eco-friendly tires. With substantial advancements in tire technology, gone are the days of sacrificing fuel efficiency for cornering and braking ability. Now you can enjoy the fruits of driving performance and reduced strain on the environment.
2. Try the hypermiling method
What is hypermiling? Fair question. Hypermiling is the practice of making skillful changes to driving habits in the service of fuel economy. It may include letting up on the accelerator, babying the brakes, employing cruise control, and slowing down a little. Bear in mind that there is an optimal, fuel-efficient speed range — usually within 45 to 60 mph, depending on your vehicle. And for every 5 miles you drive above 60 mph, your fuel efficiency may drop by 10 percent. After all, it’s easy to drive 10 mph above the speed limit without realizing it, especially if you drive a heavy and powerful SUV.
And remember, aggressive driving is not only a detriment to mental health, but it can also increase your gas mileage on the highway by nearly 33 percent! Engaging your brakes and accelerating rapidly uses up excess gas, incurs needless wear and tear, and significantly increases your risk of causing an accident. So get some hypermiling in your life. Relax. Be mindful. And try to leave a little earlier for those important appointments.
3. Avoid topping off your gas tank
You’ve probably learned to keep the hose in the tank once the pump shuts off, allowing the rest of the fuel to pour out of the nozzle. After all, that extra quarter cup of gas is yours — you paid for it. But the impulse to squeeze the pump for more fuel is actually not good for your vehicle, wallet, or the environment.
Gas pumps were designed to shut off for a reason. Adding too much gas could flood your vapor collection system and damage the engine. Once your vapor collection system is flooded, more carbon emissions might escape into the atmosphere. Your car, wallet, the environment — no one wins. Gas needs space to expand, so restrain the urge to squeeze the pump once it shuts off.
4. Try out synthetic oil for size
Synthetic oil is remarkable. It flows better in low temperatures, safeguards engines efficiently in high temperatures, and offers improved engine wear protection. What’s more, if you have an older engine that’s prone to sludge buildup, synthetic oil can help mitigate the problem. Even though it’s more expensive than regular oil, synthetic motor oil can prolong the lifespan of your engine components, which could give you improved performance and reliability.
5. Get an engine checkup
With the advent of computer-controlled fuel injection, getting a traditional engine tune-up may be a thing of the past. But it’s still important that you bring your car into the shop for a regular checkup. Fixing a car that’s failed an emissions test, for instance, can improve fuel economy by as much as 4 percent. In fact, repairing a serious maintenance issue like a faulty oxygen sensor can increase gas mileage by as much as 40 percent! So, when that check engine light beckons, don’t give it the cold shoulder. You’d be doing yourself, your car, and the environment a gross disservice.
As the responsible car owner you undoubtedly are (after all, you’re reading this), make sure you have reliable car insurance to ensure you, your car, and your wallet are protected on all fronts.