Lose the Lead Foot
If there is a single rule that says almost everything, it is this: Aggressive, impatient driving (quick starts and stops) produces the worst mileage. At highway speeds, this behavior packs a wallop, shaving off more than one-third from your car’s fuel economy.
• In stop-and-go traffic, try to find the speed that you can hold as constant as possible.
• Never tailgate.
• Accelerate moderately, and avoid unnecessary acceleration, such as over a short distance before a turn or stop.
• Keep a steady foot on the gas pedal—accelerating and decelerating can significantly decrease your mileage.
• Delay acceleration for short distances if doing so allows you to use a downward slope to take advantage of gravity.
Cruise & Coast
In all vehicles, it pays to plan ahead for braking.
• Instead of keeping your foot on the throttle up to the instant you switch to the brake, learn to use the third state of driving—coasting. If you see the light turning red ahead of you or traffic bogging down, lift off the throttle and coast.
• When possible, slow down gradually. Try to avoid heavy braking unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Don’t be a Drag
At higher speeds, wind resistance steals most of a car’s power. This varies from car to car, and depends on a lot more than the vehicle’s aerodynamics. For pickup trucks, a tonneau cover over the bed can make a real difference.
• At low speeds, use “natural air-conditioning” (open the windows); at high speeds, turn on the mechanical air-conditioning.
• Keep the body in good shape. Dents are not aerodynamic.
• When it rains, slow down for good mileage, regardless of the type of car you have. Pushing air around is one thing—but pushing water around is even more difficult, especially at high speeds.
The Cold, Hard Truth
One of the jobs of a cold engine is to warm up, and it takes fuel to do this. And any car, regardless of type, gets worse mileage when its engine is cold.
• Try to eliminate short trips, especially those followed by long intervals, when the engine can cool.
• Limit or eliminate unnecessary trips in cold weather—or any weather, for that matter. Plan ahead to do multiple errands on a single trip instead of making multiple trips.
Go on a Diet
Not you, but your car. Every extra 100 pounds you carry around cuts 1% to 2% from your fuel economy.
• Clean out all of the extraneous clutter in the car, including in the trunk and under the seats, and only keep the items that you really need.
• Lighten your load. Replace a full-size spare tire with a space- and weight-saving “limited-use” spare. This will also encourage you to fix or replace a flat tire promptly. If you have back seats you rarely use, take them out and store them at home.
Keep it in Shape
Several simple things can make a big difference in fuel economy for any kind of car.
• Get your car serviced promptly when it is due. Tuning up a car can improve mileage an average of 4%.
• Replace the air filter regularly. A clogged, dirty filter can suck up to 10% from your mileage.
• Keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your car’s fuel economy up to 3%.
• Stick with the fuel your manufacturer recommends, and change the oil early and often. This can improve your mileage by 1% to 2%.