7 Ways to Get Better Fuel Efficiency — Without Buying a Hybrid


With the price of unleaded pushing $4.009 per gallon (can’t forget the 9 tenths of a cent), it seems everyone is writing about how to get spend less money on gas.

Here are my tips, in no particular order:

  • Don’t drive: No, seriously. If you can walk or ride your bike instead, do it. If taking the train/bus/trolley/monorail is an option, do that. Combine trips, etc.
  • Track your MPG: If you don’t know what your miles per gallon are, how can you improve? www.FuelEconomy.gov is the government’s answer, but you’ve got to log in to their site to record your fill-ups. Try www.FuelFrog.com instead; they let you send a message via Twitter (SMS, email, etc.) to @fuelfrog (with your miles, price, and gallons) and they’ take care of the heavy lifting for you – easy and quick.
  • Inflate your tires: Take a look at the sidewall of your tire, it’ll tell you the tire’s maximum PSI. That’s the amount you want to put in. Don’t worry about what your auto maker says, go with the tire manufacturer. This might give you a little harder of a ride (you’ll feel more of the road) and your handling might be a bit sloppier, but you won’t be pushing “squishy,” gas-wasting tires across the pavement.
  • Get rid of baggage: the more weight you have in your car, the more gas per mile you’ll gobble up. Take out the golf-clubs, the backpack, the salt, anything that you don’t need for 90% of your trips should go. This includes the baggage that you’re carrying around your mid-section. If you’re 50 pounds overweight, your car has to haul that around too. Why not loose some?
  • Get the right gas: Your car might ask for “premium fuel” to be used. See if regular old 85 octane will work. According to Wikipedia, the octane rating of a spark ignition engine fuel is the knock resistance (anti-knock rating), it is a measure of the autoignition resistance, or, to put is less techie, it is a measure of anti-detonation of a gasoline or fuel. That means if you put gas in your car and the engine “knocks” or “pings” you need a higher octane fuel. If it doesn’t knock or ping, try the next level down and repeat the process (just make sure you do it on a near-empty tank so you’re not getting some half-and-half octane mixture). If you’re running on too low an octane it’ll hurt your fuel economy. HOWEVER, if you’re running too high an octane you’re effectively throwing money away.
  • Use the right oil: You wouldn’t think this would make a difference, but it does. The heavier weight the oil, the more resistance your pistons have (and the lower your fuel economy when your engine block is warming up). Using the lowest weight oil that your car will take will minimize the friction and warm-up time. They even have some zero-weight oils that you might be able to use in your car. Some people have seen better efficiency with synthetic oils their "standard" counterpart. It’s a bit more expensive, but can last up to 3-4 times as long (especially when coupled with a filter that’s designed specifically for synthetics).
  • Coast when you can: pay attention to traffic and traffic lights. When traffic is slowing take your foot off the accelerator but don’t press on the breaks. If you have to use your breaks to slow down you didn’t take your foot off the accelerator soon enough — or that jerk just cut you off. 😉 Try not to use your breaks, even with regenerative breaking, you’re still losing energy.

Let me know how that works out for you!

Additional Reading:

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2 thoughts on “7 Ways to Get Better Fuel Efficiency — Without Buying a Hybrid

  1. Great suggestions and all applicable, as you said, to ANY motorized vehicle on the roads. Another fuel economy killer is many people’s propensity to jackrabbit start, only to race up to the next red light. That is not to say you need to, or should, creep off the starting line, by the way. Most “hypermilers” will tell you to get up to your desired speed as quickly as you can do so with smooth, even acceleration (watch your tach/RPMs and find a good target.)

  2. @Shannon,

    GREAT suggestions! Quick starts and stops are killers. I subscribe to the “get up to cruising speed as fast as you can without gunning it” theory as well, and have seen some good results.

    I can’t claim to be a hypermiler… but I can try to learn from them!

    Thanks again for the comment! Don’t be a stranger!


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