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9 Ways to Improve Your Car’s Gas Mileage and Drive Efficiently

By Kira Botkin

efficient drivingAs gas prices remain high, improving your car’s mileage is crucial. By stretching a tank of gas further, you can reduce the amount of times you must fill up per month, which can help you stick to your budget. This is especially important for those who purchased non-efficient cars when gas was cheaper. But regardless of what car you drive, you can always use a little extra money at the end of the month, and cutting back your gas expenses is a great way to pad your bank account.

There are a range of tips, from basic to advanced, that you can implement today to help increase your mileage and save money on gas.

Basic Tips

1. Reduce Excess Weight
You’d be surprised how much all that junk in your car’s trunk can weigh. If your car has front-wheel drive, putting extra weight on the rear axle means the front wheels aren’t getting as good a grip as they could be, which reduces your mileage. Furthermore, extra weight means the engine has to work a little harder to move the car, which also reduces your gas mileage. If you’re carrying a lot of weight, lightening the load can help you get a mile or two more per gallon.

2. Properly Inflate Tires
I usually inflate my tires when they look low, but even if they are slightly low, undetectable to the eye, they could significantly reduce your mileage. Basically, under-inflated tires result in your engine using more gas to move the car.

Make sure your tires are inflated to the pressure indicated in your owner’s manual for the best balance between gas mileage and traction. This will translate into significant savings, as being under-inflated by 10 PSI per tire can cost you five MPG or more.

3. Replace Air Filter and Spark Plugs
Replacing the air filter and spark plugs during a routine auto checkup not only helps your car last longer, but it can help your engine burn gas more efficiently. For most cars, this simple task costs less than $50 if you’re comfortable with DIY car maintenance.

4. Use the Recommended Motor Oil
Don’t think that using any old type of motor oil will work for your car – its engine is designed to work best with a specific type. If you use a heavier weight oil than is recommended, this could create too much friction and cause the engine to work harder and burn more fuel. Check your owner’s manual to see what’s recommended for your car, and utilize only that type of oil.

5. Check Your Gas Cap Seal
Over time, the rubber seal on your gas cap will start to break down, allowing oxygen to leak into the gas tank. This causes an overabundance of air to enter the engine as it pulls gasoline from the tank, and in turn the engine burns more gas.

Replacing the gas cap is quite simple for most cars, and doing so every few years means you’ll always have a gas cap with a nice tight seal. You can usually get a new gas cap for $20 to $30 at the dealership – and while it may be cheaper to purchase at an auto parts store, many cars have sensors built in to detect the gas cap’s seal, and the sensors may not recognize a non-dealer part.

efficient driving

Intermediate Tips

6. Drive at the Speed Limit or Below
Most cars burn gas less efficiently at speeds of 60 miles per hour or higher. Driving slower has an immediate effect on your gas mileage – plus, it keeps you from getting costly speeding tickets. Cars vary at which speeds they are most efficient, but none have a top-efficiency speed greater than 60 miles per hour.

7. Coast to Stop Signs and Red Lights
When the light halfway down the block starts to turn yellow, punching the accelerator won’t get you there before it turns red. However, if you take your foot off the gas pedal and coast until you stop, you can save much more gas than if you accelerate to the red light before stopping. You can also do this on the highway when taking an exit ramp or when approaching a bend in the road. Any time you know you’ll need to stop or decelerate soon, coast to save yourself gas.

8. Use Cruise Control
When I’m driving on the highway, I often end up matching the speed of the vehicle in front of me without realizing it. Unfortunately, this is often the case even if the person is driving well over the speed limit.

Using cruise control helps me maintain a safe, legal, and gas-efficient speed, regardless of the speed that others around me are driving. Plus, using cruise control helps reduce the need to accelerate and brake, which makes travel more gas-efficient.

Advanced Tips

9. Pulse and Glide
To utilize the pulse and glide technique, you must accelerate quickly to a desired speed, and then coast until the car slows down significantly, repeating the cycle over and over. This saves gas because the engine operates closer to maximum efficiency during a sharp acceleration, and then doesn’t use much gas at all while coasting.

This technique is even more efficient in a hilly area where you can glide for long distances downhill. This definitely can increase your mileage, but isn’t ideal if you’re on a road with other cars – you can’t get great results when you have to slow down for the person in front of you. And furthermore, it can be dangerous if you glide too closely to another car’s rear bumper.

Final Word

You don’t necessarily have to go out and purchase a brand new fuel-efficient car to save on gas. There is plenty you can do to increase your gas mileage, and using these tips will help you save a lot of money – especially if you drive a lot or have multiple cars draining your family’s monthly budget. Keep in mind that taking your car in for regular checkups and tuneups can also save you a great deal of money. A car that doesn’t run at its optimum performance level can cost you a lot in the long run.

What other tips do you use to increase your gas mileage?

(photo credit: Bigstock)

Kira Botkin
Kira is a longtime blogger and serial entrepreneur who enjoys gardening, garage sales, and finding stray animals. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where football is a distinct season, and by day runs a research study for people with multiple sclerosis. She hopes that the MoneyCrashers team can help you achieve your goals and live a great life.

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  • http://pennyandbuck.org/ Buck

    Th

  • http://pennyandbuck.org/ Buck

    The intermediate tips can be the hardest to implement but the most effective for improving your gas mileage. These also save money regarding wear and tear on the car: your engine is happier at 60mph than 75mph, coasting provides brake savings, and cruise control provides a more constant acceleration.

  • eric taylor

    There is an electrical filtration device called the Fuel Doctor that is said to save gas
    by smoothing out the ignition/electrical system, especially good on older vehicles.
    Perhaps you could research review the plug in device?

    • Jim v.

      Scam. with mileage being a strong selling factor in new cars the Mfgrs. would have this device if it actualy worked.

  • Fuel doc is a scam

    Fuel doctor is a scam. Doesn’t do anything for mileage.

  • http://twitter.com/jolchowy25 Jeana Olchowy

    These are great tips. I am planning a few road trips in the coming weeks and will have to keep these in mind. I have a lead foot and believe the faster I go, the quicker I get to where I am going. I will have to slow down the next time to save some gas. I’ll have to pass this along to my friends who will be going to the road trips with me.

  • Jerry Mandel

    The Dept. Of Energy released a study of changing air filters. It is only effective in cars with carbureters. No effect at all with completely no-air-flow filters on mileage in cars with fuel injection. It did slow down acceleration a bit.

  • http://www.intrustadvisors.com/ Jeff Diercks

    Great tips! Walking, riding a bike or the bus are also other way to save gas. In my case, I telecommute as much as possible.

  • Kayla

    Great tips! I hate paying for gas. I will definitely be keeping these in mind!

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