Improve gas mileage

1. Keep your car in shape

Maintain your engine
You know that you feel better and have more energy when you're in shape. Did you know the same principles apply to car engines? Get noticeably better gas mileage just by keeping your engine in top shape. Make sure you fix any potential problems, like faulty oxygen sensors, and you could improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent.

Keep your car's engine in the best shape possible by following the maintenance schedule in the vehicle's handbook. Like regular checkups at the doctor or dentist, by taking your car in for regular maintenance, your service professional will be able to catch most potential engine problems before they happen, and you'll spend less money and get better gas mileage.

Maintain air filters
Replacing dirty air filters in your vehicle is another way to get better gas mileage. If you have a fan in your home, you know how the blades can get clogged up with dust and dirt. Unless you clean the fan blades, that dust and dirt are constantly getting blown back into your home.

That is also what happens if you don't check and replace your vehicle's air filters. That dust and dirt get blown back into the engine—which can cause a reduction in gas mileage and harm your engine. Checking and replacing a dirty air filter can improve gas mileage in your vehicle by as much as 10 percent.

Air filter savings based on Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Automobile Fuel Consumption in Actual Traffic Conditions. Paris, France, 1981. These tests were performed before the introduction of computer-controlled, fuel-injection engines. DOE is currently studying the fuel economy effects of clogged air filters on more modern engines.

Proper tire inflation
Car tires are like bicycle tires. The less air they have, the more work it takes to get anywhere. Simply checking your tires on a regular basis to make sure they are properly inflated can improve gas mileage by more than 3 percent. And properly inflated tires don't just help you get better gas mileage—they are safer, and they last longer too.

Use the right motor oil
You may think that motor oil is motor oil right? But did you realize that by using the wrong kind could actually hurt your gas mileage? Improve gas mileage by as much as 2 percent just by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil (check your vehicle's handbook to find out what type to use). Don't use 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30—it's not good for your engine, and it can lower your gas mileage by 1-2 percent. Using 5W-30 in an engine designed for 5W-20 can lower your gas mileage by 1-1.5 percent. And don't forget to check the API symbol on the oil container. If it says "Energy Conserving" it contains friction-reducing additives and can give you even better gas mileage and protect your engine better.

2. Drive efficiently

Driving efficiently can have a significant impact on your gas mileage. Here are a few ideas to help maximize the gas mileage of your car:

  • Drive the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases at higher speeds.
  • Limit aggressive driving. Speeding, quick acceleration, and excessive braking all lower your gas mileage.
  • Use overdrive. If your vehicle has a manual overdrive, make sure it is on; overdrive reduces engine speed, which helps to save gas.
  • Use cruise control to improve gas mileage by maintaining a constant speed.
  • Use air conditioning when traveling at highway speeds; driving with the windows open decreases gas mileage through increased drag.
  • Avoid idling: idling for longer than 30 seconds uses more gas than starting up your engine.
3. Plan ahead

You plan trips, projects, and meetings- so why not plan ahead and save gas too? With just a few simple steps, you could cut your vehicle's fuel usage every month—and less money spent on gas means more money in your pocket for other things.

  1. Drive the vehicle with the best gas mileage
    Do you own more than one car? When possible, drive the vehicle that gets the best gas mileage to save gas and get make your dollar stretch as far as possible.
  2. Combine errands into the fewest number of trips
    A great way to save gas and lessen the wear and tear on your vehicle is turn several shorter trips into one longer, multipurpose trip covering the same distance. For example, plan ahead and combine grocery-shopping, dry-cleaning drop-off, and your weekly trip to the library. You can save time by reducing the distance you drive, and wear on your car by traveling while your car is warmed-up and efficient.
  3. Use your trunk and lighten your load
    Driving a smaller car with a roof rack? Putting cargo on top of your car can be a huge help for vacation planning. But remember, anything on top of you car will create wind resistance and increase your gas usage. Or every-day errands, like visiting the grocery store, back-to-school shopping, and trips to the home improvement store, put your purchases in the trunk. Save gas by removing unnecessary objects from your car. For every 100 extra pounds in your car, you reduce your gas mileage by as much as 2 percent.
  4. Make your commute work for you
    Do you and your neighbor work in the same part of town? Create a carpool, and drive to work together to save gas, money, and wear and tear on your vehicles. Many areas offer local ride-share programs for commuters as well. And don't forget, if you work in an area with High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, cars with multiple passengers can utilize the special lanes to quicken their commute.

    Is telecommuting an option? Working from home is a great way to save gas and fill your vehicle less.

    If your work hours are flexible, avoiding peak rush hour can save gas since you'll spend less time sitting in traffic.

    Consider public transportation options. Suburban and urban areas offer multiple public transit options, from commuter trains to subways to buses. Riding public transit will not only save gas, but you can relax and enjoy the ride without the hassle of driving in traffic yourself. You can find out more about the public transportation options in your area at the American Public Transit Transportation Association has links to information about public transportation in your state.

NOTE: All statistics are based on information from the US Governments fuel economy website at www.fueleconomy.gov. Cost savings are based on an assumed fuel price of $3.74/gallon. The following are data sources for the statistics stated on www.fueleconomy.gov.