Individually, they amount to a small improvement in economy but combining them will soon add up to a noticeable saving.
We may still be enjoying relatively cheap gas prices here in the US but the combination of large distances and even larger cars means that our fuel expenses can still make up a fair portion of our motoring running costs. There are plenty of fuel-sipping subcompacts and city cars out there that can help reduce your gas expenditure but you don’t have to chop in your truck or comfortable sedan just yet.
In fact, while smaller cars are generally more efficient in city driving they have to work a lot harder in highway driving than a larger more powerful engine, so if your driving involves a lot of highway miles downsizing may not be the best option anyway. Our top tips are a combination of common-sense ideas and good driving habits that can make a big difference to your gas mileage whether it is a modern turbocharged turbocharged Volvo XC40 crossover, Toyota Camry sedan or a V8 Corvette sports car.
Old oil, clogged filters and spark plugs past their prime all have a negative effect on engine performance and efficiency. Sticking to the manufacturers’ maintenance intervals will ensure that your car is running at its best and any potential issues will also be picked up before they become bigger problems.
Overinflated tires can lead to excessive heat and uneven treadwear, while underinflated tires can increase rolling resistance too. So stick to the recommended pressures and if you notice uneven wear then get the alignment checked as this too can lead to higher consumption. Runflat tires can lose pressure over time without the tire pressure system notifying you of the fact and nothing will look amiss from a visual inspection so check the pressures once every few weeks.
The air conditioner takes power from the engine for its compressor, which means that every time you use it the engine has to work that bit harder to deliver the same level of performance. The drop in performance is more noticeable on smaller engines but consumption goes up regardless of make or model. Using the aircon sparingly makes one of the biggest differences to your fuel economy figures. Tinted window glass greatly increases its effectiveness as does keeping the windows rolled up.
Accelerating aggressively away from the lights or keeping your car in a higher gear than necessary will dramatically increase your fuel consumption and increase the wear on the mechanical components. Modern turbocharged cars like the Mercedes-Benz C 300 sedan can yield very good steady speed consumption figures but driving aggressively can quickly negate any savings. Anticipating traffic movements and driving in a calm manner is both a safer way to drive on public roads and yields big benefits at the pumps.
Popping a manual transmission into neutral on a downhill will not yield better results than leaving it in a high gear as modern electronics shut off the fuel supply under compression.
Cruise control is a great convenience feature and some modern adaptive systems will even accelerate and brake to keep with the flow of traffic. What they don’t do is anticipate as far ahead as you can which can lead to unnecessary speed changes and most systems brake on a downhill. They also keep the throttle at a preset position when cruising which can add incrementally to the fuel consumption.
The heavier a car is the more power it will need to get moving. Keeping a whole lot of superfluous gear in your trunk or in the back of your truck on your daily commute will detrimentally affect every aspect of your car's performance.
Cars are designed in wind tunnels to offer the best drag coefficient taking into account basic safety and mechanical packaging requirements. Any impediment to the smooth airflow over the body will increase the drag and the car will require more power and fuel to overcome it. As a point of interest, the latest G30 5-Series BMW is currently one of the most aerodynamically efficient cars, with a 0.22 Cd drag coefficient factor. Roof racks should be removed when not being used and driving around with a trailer when it is not needed should be avoided.
Leaving your windows fully open will also significantly increase the drag, but this may still be a better option on a hot day than using the air conditioner.
Pre-planning a trip can help you avoid sitting in traffic wasting precious fuel and getting irritated in the process. Certain navigation systems will check the road conditions on your planned route ahead of time and sometimes a longer route may actually be quicker and more fuel efficient especially if more of it is spent at a constant cruise rather than in stop and go city-style driving. Fiat Chrysler’s Uconnect navigation system is particularly user-friendly and can be found fitted to a number of their offerings from the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Challenger to the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Stop-and-go systems can help reduce fuel consumption when sitting stationary but if your car is not equipped with this technology do not try to replicate this manually as the conventional starter motor will suffer excessive wear.
Many manufacturers offer sport packages which can include a variety of aerodynamic add-ons and large diameter wheels. They may enhance the look of your car but the additional air and rolling resistance will make the car less fuel efficient and in some cases slower too. Large winches, bull bars and canopies all add to the weight and drag of a car so unless it is a functional addition, it is best not to tick these options. All-wheel-drive is great for slippery mountain passes and off-roading but it is largely unnecessary on your daily commute.
The additional weight and drivetrain drag of an AWD system will detrimentally affect the efficiency of your vehicle so pick the two-wheel-drive option wherever possible. Even something as massive as a Ford Expedition can be had with a RWD setup.
The current crop of modern automatic and dual-clutch transmissions can quite often eclipse a manual transmission when it comes to fuel efficiency so if you are in the market for a new car check the figures first. Many new cars spanning from a BMW 1-series right up to the Rolls-Royce Phantom use the versatile ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, heck, even the RAM 1500 uses it. The reason being that performance and efficiency levels actually go up compared to a manual.
The popular DCT Dual-clutch transmission is generally fitted to more sporty cars and the Porsche 911, BMW M4 and Nissan GT-R all have their own in-house designed versions and if there is a manual option in the range they almost always outperform it in every measurable way.
Modifying your car with aftermarket items can increase the wear and tear on the internals as well as mess with the economy. There are many reputable tuners out there though who can improve your cars performance and a common practice is to remap engine control units on turbocharged cars as this can yield decent performance gains for the outlay. Popular models to modify include the VW Golf GTI, BMW M240i and the Audi S3 sedan, mainly because their hi-tech turbocharged engines respond well to remapping.
This allows you to use smaller throttle openings for the same speeds giving you theoretically better economy figures, of course if you are always using the additional power on offer you will just increase your consumption. Remember though that regardless of their design, all internal combustion engines require air and fuel to work, increasing these values will yield more power and with it, higher fuel consumption.
Individually, each of these points only amount to a small improvement in economy figures but combining them will soon add up to a noticeable saving. Different cars will yield varying results but adopting a more sympathetic driving style, pre-planning journeys and keeping your car well-maintained will definitely help as well as make for a more relaxing motoring experience.