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Better Gas Mileage

High gas prices getting the best of you? It’s time to share two keys to getting better gas mileage. The first has a higher cost, but can yield significant gains. The second can be nearly free, but the gains may be only incremental. Rest assured, there are no magic solutions that will instantly and painlessly deliver better gas mileage. It takes some effort and investment (though not necessarily financial). If you truly want to achieve the highest gas mileage, you have to make it a mindset. You need to make a conscious decision that getting highest number of miles per gallon is a priority.

Lets go back to those two keys.

Key #1 should come as no surprise: Give serious consideration to giving up old paint for a new ride. Simply put, there’s no faster way to better gas mileage then dumping your gas guzzler for a more fuel efficient vehicle. If most of your driving is in town and you’re hauling around in a thirsty pig that delivers a whopping 15 MPG in the city, give some thought to upgrading to something more reasonable.

You might be able to slash your fuel bill by as much as two-thirds if you switch to a fuel stingy hybrid from a gas-guzzling SUV. (Feel free to plug your numbers into our gas mileage calculator to see exactly how much you can save.) Check our list of of 40 MPG cars … some of them are remarkably nice …

But what if you’re not ready to buy a more fuel-efficient car? Is there anything you can do to get better gas mileage out of your current (and possibly fully paid for) vehicle?

Of course there is … as long as you don’t expect to double your mileage.

Key #2: The low buck path to better gas mileage isn’t a purchase decision so much as a change in your thinking.

Keep your car proper running order. Be sure to maintain the proper air pressure in your tires. Take care of basic maintenance. If your check engine light is lit, you can have the codes read for free at many auto parts stores. A bad oxygen sensor or irregularities in your fuel injection system can have an impact on fuel economy. When your car’s in the shop for an oil change, go the extra mile, pay the extra bucks, and switch to synthetic engine oil.

Drive like you care about the amount of petroleum that you’re consuming. Stop rushing around and stomping on the gas pedal and brakes. Leave a little earlier and get there on time. Let off the gas as soon when you see that you’re coming up to a red light. (Slow down a bit and enjoy life, it’s later than you think.) The guy that passed you at 80 MPH is sitting in front of you at the light right now. Shut off your engine when you pull up to the drive-up window … or better yet, park your car and walk inside (the exercise is an extra benefit). If your vehicle has a fuel-efficiency monitor, use it to learn how to drive optimally.

Last but not least: don’t expect your cruise control to give you the best possible mileage. A skilled driver is smarter than the transmission.

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12 comments ↓

#1 DRew on 02.18.08 at 9:40 pm

Who writes this stuff???? Must be the mechanic down the street trying to make an extra book. There is not link between better gas mileage and synthetic oil, less changing your oil every 3k miles, which is another BS attemp to get you in the shop for the latest part of the day.

#2 mpg-o-editor on 02.18.08 at 10:14 pm

Many thanks for your thoughts, Drew!

I’m a big fan of synthetic oil, for two reasons: 1) it allows you to go much longer between oil changes, 2) it does a better job of protecting engine internals.

As far as whether the use of synthetic oil will lead to higher gas mileage, an article on the Minnesota State University website claims that “synthetic motor oil provides up to a 2 percent increase in fuel efficiency over conventional oil.”

I’m a big advocate of folks doing the simple stuff themselves. Any one with a bit of mechanical skill can replace their own air filter. It’s a five minute task.

#3 AudioGMan on 02.21.08 at 3:09 pm

If you want better highway gas mileage out of the vehicle you currently drive then SLOW DOWN! People are ignorant to the fact that the single most important factor that determines gas mileage is RPMs. Get a vacuum gauge if you want to “learn” how to drive efficiently. Drag coefficient also plays a huge role as it increases exponentially. When you double your speed, you increase drag fourfold. 40-60 mph is the sweetspot cruising range for most vehicles.

#4 Better Gas Mileage as an Economic Stimulus on 02.21.08 at 10:17 pm

[...] I’ll go out on a limb and propose something so obvious that it sounds crazy … that better gas mileage can and should be part and parcel of any economic stimulus package. It’s well past time we [...]

#5 david on 04.28.08 at 4:39 pm

There are thousands of tests done that will prove Synthetic increases gas mileage. My 1998 civic got 3 miles more/gallon by switching. Try it yourself. Although going longer on synthetic is not recommended by any of the major oil companies, such as shell, pennzoil, castrol even mobil. if you buy the mobil 10,000 synthetic oil and read the fine print on the back it will tell you to follow the vehicles manufacturer recommendation on oil changes or your warranty will be voided. nowhere in any owners manual does it say change your oil every 3000 miles w/ conventional and 5000 miles with synthetic. also if you go over 3000 miles with any oil once you hit 3500-4000 miles on the oil you will be at least one quart low which should tell you that the oil can not be good anymore if it is burning out so fast. also driving around low on oil will decrease engine life and get you worse gas mileage. Plus you change your oil not to have oil but because of the cleaning agents and no oil company claims their cleaning agents last for over 3000 miles. quaker state had a commercial for semi-synthetic where they specifically said you should still change your oil every 3000 miles but for whatever reason you do not than use the semi-synthetic. Millions of tests will prove gas mileage increase of up to 10% by changing a clogged or semi clogged air filter. think about how you would feel if you walked around all day with a clogged filter over your mouth. if your filter is really clogged the car will not even start. Try it yourself. millions of tests will prove to do a tune up. it is not the mechanic down the block trying to make a BOOK it is common sense.

#6 Bill Matthews on 05.02.08 at 1:39 pm

I have a 2006 Suzuki Forenza. Purchsed new November 2006. I only get 13.5 MPg in the city. 19 MPG highway. I filed a complaint against the dealer using the Lemon Law. Before the hearing, the dealer wanted to test drive my car again. The factory rep, their lawyer & I went for a test drive. The factory rep drove. We went on a 20 mile round trip in the city. He got 44.57 MPG. We then went on a 30 mile round trip on the highway. He got 35.9 MPG.
He did the speed limit but it took forever to get up to speed. The EPA estimate is 22 MPG city & 31 MPG highway.
I lost the case because under the EPA they are allowed to get as low as 12MPG & still be within the official estimate.
Now if I drive really slow I still only get 15 MPG in the city.
What is the secret to getting the mileage acheived by the factory rep ?

#7 mpg-o-editor on 05.02.08 at 2:03 pm

@Bill – There are no secrets to better gas mileage, there are no magic buttons … you just need to learn how to drive for optimum efficiency.

If your car does not have fuel economy display, you can pick up a ScanGauge … this cool little device plugs into your cars OBDII port and will show you exactly how much gas you are using as you are using it. So basically, you use the information display to help train yourself to achieve higher gas mileage.

I’m in the midst of reviewing the ScanGauge II and hope to have a post ready in the next week or so … stay tooned! :)

#8 Rick on 05.09.08 at 2:09 pm

I have learned from what I have read that synthetic oil does lead to better gas mileage. My Blazer’s (gas hog-though at 22mpg all around its not to bad) manual states that under severe conditions (dusty area, sahara desert, etc.) change oil very 3000 mile otherwise change it every 7000 miles. That is with conventional oil. I use Mobile 1 and Mobil 1 filter and change it every 7000-8000 miles. (May change to Royal Purple) I have changed all my fluids to synthetic. (Amsoil for all except oil) I plan on getting a multiple spark discharge add-on for the Blazer (cleaner burn, improved gas mileage, etc.), as well as a cat-back exhaust system that improves gas mileage approx.
1-2mpg. I also try and stay off the gas as much as possible. Lets all hope things get better other wise we will all be driving mopeds!

#9 jerry at your serivce on 11.06.08 at 6:08 pm

Let’s be specific about oil and what it does/does not do.
Oil is a hydrodynamic wedge between moving metal parts in you car engine. As such, the better the “wedge”, less fricitional loss. Actual dyno tests on a turbo bishi showed a 5 – 7 whp gain across the board when the only change was to royal purple syn oil. My own experience supports these gains; more significantly, my dodge truck no longer blackens the oil after about lK miles of normal driving. With 3 – 4 K miles the syn oil is still fairly clear. With conventional oil, it smelled like badly burnt oil and look like tar.

#10 ken on 10.16.11 at 9:50 pm

My Ride. 62 Toyota FJ40 LC. 350 V8. used castro 20w50. just put in mobile 1 fuel advantage. I have not tested MPG. But Can say without a doubt. It runs so much smoother. Like wow…
I’ll check the MPG soon.

#11 Dean on 07.06.12 at 5:44 pm

As soon as I saw the advice to change the airfilter I knew i was reading a poor article. It has been proven time and time again that a dirty air filter does not effect the MPG in todays vehicles. They are fuel injected and computerized and the computer adjusts for the amount of air flow. Common knowledge that a dirty air filter hurts gas mileage is an old school thought.

#12 mpg-o-editor on 07.06.12 at 9:25 pm

@Dean – Many thanks for the catch. You are spot on and I’ve corrected the article. A dirty air filter does not have a negative effect on a modern fuel-injected engine the way it did on a carburetor-equipped engine, back in the day. The freelancer that originally wrote this article is long gone.

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