Fuel prices are rising, and we may be facing the costliest spring driving season since 2014, when the price of gas peaked at more than $4 a gallon. Right now, the average for a gallon of gas is $2.81, nearly 50 cents higher than during the previous 12 months. Thirteen percent of gas stations are charging more than $3 a gallon.
If your car gets less-than-perfect fuel efficiency, chances are you’re going to be paying more at the pump this spring. What can you do to improve your car’s gas mileage?
Keep up With Regular Maintenance
Keeping your car tuned and properly maintained is one of the best things you can do for your fuel efficiency. Old spark plugs don’t burn properly, dirty air filters make it harder for your car to breathe and underinflated tires all negatively affect your car’s MPG.
A few places to start might include:
- Oil changes — While you don’t actually need to change your oil every 3 months/3,000 miles, regular oil changes keep your engine running smoothly, and a smoothly running engine helps with fuel efficiency.
- Replace your filters — There’s nothing worse for your fuel economy than a dirty air filter. Check your filters regularly, and if they look dirty, change them out!
- Swap your spark plugs — Check your car’s owner’s manual to find out what their recommended change interval is for spark plugs, based on mileage. If you’ve passed that milestone, change out your plugs — and make sure they’re gapped properly for optimum fuel efficiency.
- Keep your tires inflated — Underinflated tires have a higher rolling resistance. The higher that resistance, the more power it takes to keep you moving, and the more fuel you burn. Check your tire inflation once a week and make sure you keep them properly pumped up.
A well-running car is going to burn fuel more efficiently. Neglecting your maintenance is a surefire way to pay more at the pump.
This practice isn’t the easiest way to improve your MPG, but, as the Mythbusters proved, extreme hyper-mileing practices can improve the gas mileage on old cars by a whopping 70 percent. It isn’t always the fastest, or the safest, way to drive, though. Some techniques include:
- Driving more slowly — Don’t drive faster than 45 miles per hour — ever. If you live in a state where it is illegal to drive too slowly on the highway, you’ll have to keep this driving technique to the back roads.
- Improving aerodynamics — Your car’s aerodynamics have a huge effect on your fuel economy, so by cutting down on drag, you can save some money at the pump. Removing your side view mirror and adding a streamlining skin can both help improve your MPG, but be aware they aren’t always the safest option.
- No A/C and close your windows — If you live in a hot climate, this can be tantamount to suicide, but by keeping your windows up, you preserve the car’s natural aerodynamics. Keeping the A/C off improves gas mileage as well.
- Turn off your engine instead of idling — If your engine runs for more than a minute, it uses more fuel than turning the car off and back on again. If you’re stuck in traffic, or at a long stoplight, shut off your engine. You may have some grumpy drivers behind you while they wait for you to restart, but it can be worth it for the fuel you’ll save.
- Draft, where safe and legal — Drafting can save you quite a bit of fuel, but it requires you to drive close to the rear end of a large truck or tractor-trailer. The larger vehicle cuts through the air, creating a buffer around you where it requires less fuel to move the same distance because there isn’t as much drag.
Not all these techniques are practical, but they can save you some serious coin at the gas station, so it might be worth looking into incorporating some of them into your morning or evening commute.
Changing the way you drive can help improve your car’s MPG.
Start by not bearing down on the accelerator or brake so hard. When you start moving from a dead stop, start slowly. You’re not in a race — there’s no reason to be the fastest person off the line once the light turns green. When you’re approaching a stoplight, coast to a stop as much as possible, rather than bearing down on the brakes.
Just keeping your car running well and changing the way you drive a little bit can help save you a ton of money at the pump. However, always be safe and obey the rules of the road. No amount of savings is worth getting into a car accident, or putting yourself or others at risk.