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How to Get Better Gas Mileage

By Jason Collins | June 9, 2022

If there was one thing the pandemic taught people, it is to be more conscious of our spending and the importance of saving every dollar possible. If you are not planning on upgrading your car to a hybrid or electric vehicle any time soon, you may be looking for the best ways to make that tank of gas go further.

While improving your fuel economy not only saves your hard-earned money, it also benefits the environment by releasing fewer emissions into the air. If you are one of those drivers who want to know how to get better gas mileage, then continue reading.

How to Improve Gas Mileage:

Now that you have inspected your vehicle for any causes of poor fuel efficiency, you can turn to changing your own driving habits and driving more efficiently if you want to reduce your fuel costs and get better gas mileage. Here is what you can do:

Take it Easy on the Gas Pedal:
Depending on the type of vehicle you drive, poor driving habits can negatively affect your car's fuel economy between 15% and 30%—speeding, slamming on brakes, and rapid acceleration all waste gas. Remember, the more aggressively you stop your car, the more gas you use. The best remedy is to take it easy on the pedal, accelerate slowly and don't brake at the last minute; slow down gently as you approach stoplights, stop streets, etc.

If possible, avoid rush hour because this is also hard on the stopping and accelerating of your car and is a sure way of guzzling gas. Instead, take advantage of flexible work hours if you can and avoid traveling during peak traffic times.

Finally, if you can, watch the traffic ahead of you and try time stoplights so you can maintain your momentum and avoid the frequent stops and goes.

Watch the Speed Limit:
Fuel efficiency typically decreases above the 50 miles per hour mark. According to fueleconomy.gov, for every five miles per hour that exceed 50 mph, drivers pay an equivalent of about 22 cents more for each gallon of gas. Driving above the speed limit can result in 7% to 14% reduced fuel economy. With that said, if you slow down a bit, you can save 22 to 43 cents per gallon.

Use Cruise Control:
According to Edmunds.com, using cruise control under appropriate conditions can improve fuel economy by up to 14%. Use your vehicle's cruise control when possible on the highway. Maintaining a constant speed, especially highway speeds, maximizes your gas mileage, and the best way to do this is to use your cruise control.

Look Past the Premium Gasoline:
Unless your car absolutely requires it, do not fill up with premium gas. The only difference between premium and regular gas is premium gas carries a higher gas price.

Use the Right Motor Oil:
You can improve your MPG by up to 2 percent if you use the correct grade of motor oil for your vehicle. If you are unsure, consult your owner's manual for which grade you should use in your car.

Avoid Excessive Idling:
Your car's engine consumes between a quarter and one-half gallon of fuel per hour when it idles; however, a warm engine only takes ten seconds worth of fuel to get started again. If it is safe to do so, rather shut off the engine instead of idling if you know you will remain stationary for longer than one minute. Turning your car off instead of idling can save you roughly 3 cents per minute.

Reduce the Weight:
Even an additional 100 pounds in your car of excess weight can reduce your gas mileage by up to 2%. Typically, smaller vehicles are more affected by added weight than larger vehicles like SUVs. Be mindful of how much excess weight you pack in your car and even on top of the roof rack, which adds to wind resistance and aerodynamic drag.

Towing heavy items or vehicles also adds extra weight and will drastically reduce your fuel economy.

What Causes Bad Gas Mileage?

Knowing what causes bad gas mileage in your vehicles is an excellent step in the right direction to improving your car's fuel efficiency. Below are some of the leading causes of poor gas mileage in both new and used cars. Address these issues, and you will soon enjoy a better fuel economy.

Incorrect Tire Pressure:
Incorrect tire pressure is one of the easiest things to correct and one of the most common causes of bad gas mileage. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 1.25 billion gallons of gasoline are wasted each year on underinflated tires. Due to daily wear and tear, tires lose roughly 2 pounds per square inch (psi) per month. A tire that is underinflated by 10 psi results in a decreased fuel economy of 3.3% (that is per tire).

Regularly checking your tires with a tire pressure gauge is the best way to catch this problem. You should also make it a habit of inspecting your tires with every oil change service. Always use your vehicle's recommended air pressure levels, which can be found on the sticker inside the driver's side door jamb or in your owner's manual. Do not follow the "maximum pressure" numbers found on the tires themselves.

Misaligned Tires:
Your tires can affect your car's gas mileage in several ways. We mentioned the air pressure above as one cause of bad gas mileage, but misaligned tires have the same effect too. Misaligned tires drag instead of rolling freely. This rolling resistance reduces fuel efficiency by as much as 10%, which is about 31 cents per gallon of gas.

Misalignment also causes your tires to wear out faster and encourages uneven tire tread, another cause of poor fuel efficiency. To avoid these problems, always ensure your tires are balanced and rotated according to your car's owner's manual.

Bad Oxygen Sensors and Air Filters:
Having bad oxygen sensors and air filters typically reduces your gas mileage by up to 20%. Your vehicle's oxygen sensors help maintain the correct mixture of air and fuel; an imbalance in this mixture can result in poor fuel consumption. Replace your car's oxygen sensor every 10,000 miles for better gas mileage and more accurate data.

If you have dirty air filters, clean them to avoid any clogged dirt. If these air filters are not regularly cleaned, the engine cannot perform at its best. Changing a dirty air filter helps increase MPG, especially on older vehicles passing the ten-year mark.

Misfiring Spark Plugs:
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence indicates that bad spark plugs can decrease your car's fuel economy by up to 30%. That decrease can cost drivers up to about 94 cents per gallon at current gas prices.

Ensure you check your spark plugs at regular intervals or with your scheduled services. If your spark plugs misfire or malfunction, then you may need to fill up more often at the gas station than you would like to. This is because your spark plugs fulfill the role of sparking combustion in your engine.

Bad Fuel Injectors:
Fuel injectors are responsible for driving fuel into your engine. Bad fuel injectors which may be leaking can cause reduced fuel efficiency because less fuel will enter the engine. The engine as a whole won't function correctly, and you may eventually incur severe damage in addition to lost gallons of fuel.

Your Next Car

Finally, when you are in the market for your next car, look for one with gas mileage of 40+ MPG. Even better, explore the options of a hybrid or electric vehicle.