Tuesday, July 23, 2024 Detailed Auto Topics
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Gasoline prices are again on the rise. When fuel prices rise, looking for ways to save is natural. Not always considered, but the driver has control of the largest savings in fuel costs and it cost almost nothing.

add on devices do nothing to increase fuel mileageCountless gadgets claim to save fuel.  Everything from running a vehicle on water to pills and additives for the gasoline we use is being pushed.  These devices are very effective at earning quick money for their sponsors, but do little else.

Even well intentioned advice in forums is largely inaccurate or offers very little savings.  For instance, replacing an air filter may be a good idea, but it will NOT increase fuel mileage.   Different type air filters, spark plugs and other bolt on components are also a waste. 

Basic physics states that it takes X amount of energy (gasoline) to move X amount of weight, a given distance and at a given speed with a particular design of an engine. This cannot be readily changed.


The base factors of improved fuel mileage are:

  • Weight, something that is difficult to change
  • Energy, The type fuel burned
  • Distance, easy to control with planning
  • Engine design, all but impossible to change
  • Speed, something the driver has total control over

Vehicle speed is not only the speed that is driven, but acceleration to that speed

Speed and acceleration consume energy.  If a person walks a mile they burn much less energy than if they run a mile.  Running the same mile in competition and at some higher speed burns even more energy.  A great deal of fuel mileage can be saved by reducing speed and acceleration.

Fuel mileage savings are easy to calculate.  Most vehicles can enjoy up to five additional miles per gallon, changing from an aggressive style of driving to fuel-mileage driving.  That could mean going from 15 MPG to 20 MPG.

Driving 68 MPH instead of 70 MPH can increase fuel mileage considerably.  Two miles per hour difference will add about 15 minutes to a 500-mile trip, yet could save the equivalent of $1.00 per gallon in fuel cost.

A steady accelerator save fuel and increases mileage

Every time the accelerator is pressed; the vehicle attempts to make power, and burns fuel.  Allowing a vehicle to coast will burn almost no energy at all.  A good deal of fuel can be saved by anticipating traffic flow and coasting when possible.  For instance, look ahead when driving.  If the traffic is slowing, or if you see a traffic light that is about to change, coast. 

Allowing the vehicle to coast will reduce the amount of fuel burned, and also drastically reduces wear on brakes and rotors.  Major fuel savings can be achieved by this one simple change.

This series of photos illustrates aggressive driving and the lack of progress actually achieved.

The driver of the green van passes and weaves between two vehicles. 

aggressive driver weaves in and out of traffic

Almost immediately they apply brakes to avoid slower traffic

Almost immediately they brake

Again they speed up, only to arrive at a traffic  signal that has just changed.

braking to avoid slower traffic at intersection

Speeding up again they arrive at the next signal.

Hurry up and wait driving

Finally, three miles down the road waiting for another signal.  In the same drive I never used my brakes, maintained a steady speed and arrived at the same place, right behind this driver.

Arriving at the same place, seconds later and a lot less fuel burned

Aids to better fuel mileage

Many vehicles have a fuel mileage meter.  If so the selection should be set on “instant mileage.”  Aftermarket gauges are also available for many vehicles at a modest cost.

Instant fuel economy mode can teach much about driving for mileage

Watching the gauge and maintaining the highest mileage will teach a lot about driving for mileage.  Fuel mileage quickly drops any time the accelerator is pressed.

Learning to watch the road ahead can also help.  When a red traffic signal is ahead, coasting will increase fuel mileage and may avoid the need to stop.  A vehicle sitting stopped at a traffic signal, it is getting zero miles per gallon.

Watching traffic, for brake lights can also help avoid the need to stop. Little sense is made by rushing to a stop.

All modern vehicles “learn” the way they are driven

Hard acceleration causes the computer to command higher shift points.  The engine will race higher before it shifts, burning more fuel.  This is because transmissions adapt to the way they are driven.  Drive easily and they maximize mileage.  Drive aggressively and they maximize power output.  Driving a vehicle aggressively one time, may affect fuel mileage for several days.

Planning trips to avoid needless driving and high-traffic times also saves a good deal of additional fuel.  With a few simple changes, most folks can gain four to five miles per gallon.  That sort of savings can have a serious impact on the budget.


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