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Avoid the Pump: Driving Secrets to Boost Fuel Economy

These days it isn’t too hard to find vehicles that boast great fuel economy and safer emissions for the environment. This is great for both the driver that is considerate of the impact their commutes have on the planet and the driver that is considerate of the impact their commutes have on their wallet. Now obviously the fuel economy you see on a car’s sticker isn’t written in stone, there are plenty of factors that can cause variations in the mileage you actually get driving for better or for worse. In this article I hope to shed some light on simple habits you can get in both on and off the road that can help you get the best possible fuel efficiency from your vehicle.

While every vehicle is unique and may reach their optimal fuel economy at different speeds and in different conditions, there are a few driving habits that should help you improve your fuel economy regardless of what you drive. These aren’t necessarily marginal improvements either- with the wrong driving habits you could actually lower your vehicle’s fuel economy up to 30% on the freeway and up to 40% in city traffic! With that being said, let’s look at the ways you can help reach and maintain your car’s peak fuel economy.

The Cost of Speed

I’m sure at one point or another someone has told you that by driving a little slower and more conservatively you can boost your car’s fuel economy. But what exactly is a little slower, and how much improvement can you expect to see? According to the U.S. Department of Energy fuel economy website, driving aggressively, or rapidly accelerating, braking and maintaining high speeds, can lower your fuel economy 15-30% on the highway and 10-40% in the city. To further illustrate this point, Edmunds reports that by continually hitting the gas on a V8 SUV in traffic can lower fuel economy by a whopping 25%. Frequently hitting the gas and brake pedals aren’t the only thing that can hurt your fuel economy. Maintaining higher driving speeds can greatly reduce your vehicle’s performance. Most vehicles operate at their peak fuel economy at around 50mph, and every 5mph faster you drive after that is like paying an extra $0.20 per gallon for fuel. By just increasing your freeway speed from 55mph to 75mph you can see up to a 20% reduction in your fuel economy! You can easily make sure you aren’t speeding and accelerating too much by simply using the cruise control feature if your car has it. That’s something to keep in mind next time a big empty stretch of freeway is calling your name.

Aside from accelerating and braking too quickly or too often, there are other ways you can put strain on your engine and cause your fuel efficiency to drop. The first is by not maintaining your engine according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. By driving with a clogged air or oil filter, a worn-out belt or bad spark plugs you can lower not only your fuel efficiency but the overall lifespan of your vehicle. Make sure you always have a clean, well-maintained engine in order to get the best performance out of it through its lifetime. A poorly-maintained engine could use up to 50% more fuel and produce 50% more harmful emissions than one that is well cared for.

Even a clean engine can waste gas if you aren’t careful. Surprisingly, an idle engine can use up to a half gallon of fuel in just one hour! With that being said, starting your engine back up only costs you about the equivalent of 10 seconds of driving, so make sure you shut the engine off whenever you’ll be stopped for 30 seconds or more (when it’s safe to do so). Once you get moving, it’s important to know that an engine consumes more fuel when in lower gears during acceleration. It’s best to shift up as soon as you can to reach a higher gear faster, thus reaching your optimal fuel economy faster. If the engine isn’t pulling, shift down instead of keeping on the gas. You want to monitor your RPM and keep it in the mid-range while accelerating and driving for the best mileage.

Don’t Drag Yourself Down

Another extremely easy way to improve your mileage is to make sure you reduce as much excess weight and drag as possible in your vehicle. On average, every extra 100lbs of weight you add to your car will reduce your fuel economy by 1%. With that being said, it’s best to remove any items you don’t directly need from your vehicle when you’re commuting.

Increased drag on your vehicle can reduce your fuel economy up to nearly 10% in the city and up to 25% on the freeway. But what affects your drag, and how can you improve your car’s aerodynamics? One of the biggest culprits to increased drag are luggage racks and other similar items you can mount on your car. Sure, they’re handy when you need them and can be a pain to take down and store when not in use, but you may be surprised to find out how much they can impact your fuel economy. The drag created by a sturdy roof-mounted cargo box can reduce your fuel economy by 8% in the city and 25% on the freeway. Although a rear-mounted cargo box or rack isn’t quite as bad for your aerodynamics, the extra weight and drag can still lower your mileage by 2% in the city and 5% on the freeway. This may not seem like a lot, but it can quickly add up- especially if you drive a bigger car that’s naturally less fuel efficient.

Another way you can reduce unwanted drag and friction is by making sure your tires are always filled to the ideal pressure. Remember, this isn’t the number printed on the tire itself, rather the number found in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. By driving with underinflated tires, you increase the amount of surface area on your tire contacting the road, and the added friction causes increased fuel consumption. That doesn’t mean you should overinflate your tires, though! Although a more inflated tire will have less friction, an overinflated tire won’t have as much grip on the road in bad conditions and the tread will wear down faster, requiring replacement sooner. The manufacturer- recommended tire pressure is the ideal balance of fuel efficiency and tire longevity for your specific vehicle.

What’s better than driving with the windows down on the highway during summer? If your answer is “better mileage,” you might want to consider rolling the windows up. Although at lower speeds and in older cars using the AC can lower your fuel economy by up to 10%, sometimes it can be the lesser of two evils. At high speeds, having the windows open even just a little bit can greatly increase the drag on your car, lowering your mileage by a significant amount. If you’re not driving in the city your best bet might be rolling them up and using your car’s flow-through air system. If you have a newer car, there’s a good chance your AC is efficient enough to allow you to enjoy some cold air without a great impact on your fuel economy.

Save on the D’oh!

Have you ever gotten in your car on a hot, sunny day and swore you had more gas when you parked? Don’t worry, you probably aren’t crazy- you can actually lose gas to evaporation if it’s hot and you’re parked in the sun. Besides saving gas, you can also keep your interior in better condition for longer by making sure to park in the shade on a hot sunny day.

Some people think that putting premium gas in their car will boost their fuel efficiency and overall engine health. After all, it’s called premium and costs more, so it must be better, right? Not so much. Your car is designed to run on the type of gas recommended by the manufacturer and buying higher grade fuel won’t help you boost your mileage; All you’ll do is pay more to fill your tank.


There are plenty of factors that can cause you to lose out big time on your car’s fuel efficiency. By not properly maintaining your car alone you could see up to 50% more fuel consumption while you drive! Not only that, but by driving too fast or aggressively, you could end up refilling your tank up to 30% more frequently, which can be a lot with today’s gas prices. Make sure you reduce any excess weight and drag from your vehicle. By maintaining optimal aerodynamics, you could improve your mileage by 10-20%, and that could be as simple as rolling up the windows on the freeway!

Holbrook Auto Parts knows that a car is an expense, and nobody wants to pay more than they have to in order to maintain their vehicle. If you’re following these tips and still don’t see the fuel efficiency you want, or your vehicle simply isn’t running the way it used to, we’d love to help! With a wide selection of new and tested used OEM parts, our team has the tools and knowledge you need to keep your car expenses low and to keep you On the Move!

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