With fuel economy on everyone’s minds, AAA provided some tips for saving at the pump.
Safe driving prevents accidents, and AAA found that it also improves gas mileage. According to AAA’s fuel-saving tips, slowing down and driving the speed limit can save a few miles per gallon. When drivers proceed at the set speed limit, they are more likely to pass green lights than repeatedly having to stop at red ones on city streets.
Braking uses more fuel, so easing off the gas pedal and giving more time for your vehicle to coast down to a stop will help improve fuel economy.
AAA indicated that when the light turns green, there is no need to pedal to the metal. Hard accelerations can use more gas than allowing your vehicle to accelerate gradually. Smooth accelerations allow automatic transmission vehicles to upshift sooner, reducing the engine’s RPM and, in turn, saving gas.
Avoiding hard stops and hard accelerations has been found to be the easiest and among the most important ways to fuel.
Public Affairs Specialist for AAA Minnesota-Iowa Meredith Mitts said the Department of Energy has found that hard acceleration and braking can lower mileage by 33% on the highway and 5% in town.
According to AAA, drivers with manual transmission vehicles should avoid “lugging” the engine, meaning driving in a higher gear than necessary. Upshifting or reasonably skip-shifting (going from first gear to third) can save gas.
Aerodynamic drag causes fuel efficiency to drop at higher speeds, so the use of cruise control can help save gas, but only when it is safe to do so. The use of cruise control is not recommended when roads are slippery.
“Studies have found that fuel economy diminishes significantly at highway speeds above 50 mph,” said Mitts. “According to the Department of Energy, every 5 mph driven over 60 mph, the fuel economy is lowered by 7%. Based on this information, when planning a route to take, drivers should look at the physical number of miles, and the types of roads they will take.”
Mitts said that if a driver is looking at two routes that are essentially the same distance, it is better to take a route that stays in the range of 40 to 60 mph with minimal stops or hard accelerations than it is to take a route that repeated stops, rapid accelerations, or going 70 mph when traffic clears.
AAA added that underinflated tires not only reduce fuel economy, but they can have a negative effect on handling, braking, wear down rapidly, and could increase the risk of blowouts.
Idling, or leaving the engine on without moving, is not only bad for the environment, but it also wastes gas. AAA indicated that it is better to turn off the engine if the vehicle is going to be stopped for more than 60 seconds. Some vehicle models do this automatically with stop-start systems. AAA also said that warming up the engine in the winter is not better for the vehicle and wastes fuel.
Using vehicle air conditioning will increase the use of gas, so opening windows will be more beneficial on warmer days, even at higher speeds. On hot days, finding shade or using a windshield sunscreen can help reduce heat buildup inside the vehicle and reduce the need for air conditioning.
Mitts explained that among the most important things drivers can do to get the most out of their gas is to keep up with a vehicle’s maintenance. “Properly inflated tires, clean oil, and high-functioning parts are key to a well-running machine,” she said.
While modern cars may not need tune-ups, AAA indicates that regular service can help vehicles go the extra mile. Check engine lights can indicate issues with the vehicle that could decrease gas mileage, so it is best to take vehicles into a shop as soon as possible.
Among the most important things Mitts said a driver can do to save fuel is pre-planning before running errands. Accomplishing errands all in one trip in the same part of town as well as traveling during less busy times of the day on efficient routes can have a positive effect on the fuel economy.
Recognizing fuel economy myths can help avoid unnecessary measures that don’t save any money at the pump. AAA’s research has found that there is no added benefit to using premium fuel where it is not recommended or required.
AAA indicated that it takes more gas to accelerate a heavier car, so reducing the amount of bulky or unnecessary items in your car can help save a few dollars. In turn, when not utilizing roof racks or special carriers, it is best to remove them.
While carpooling might add some extra weight to vehicles, carpooling helps everyone save on gas prices.
“If you add an extra two people to a vehicle for carpooling, you can split the cost of gas and vehicle maintenance three ways instead of three people having to pay full price individually,” said Mitts. “It would take a significant amount of weight and extra drag to have the cost of three vehicles going 20 miles on the exact same route cost less than one vehicle that is slightly heavier making the same trip.”
Mitts added that carpooling can allow drivers to utilize high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. HOV lanes can help to get to destinations faster as well as reduce the need to stop and start during the trip.