07 May 2008

Collection of fuel efficiency tips

So I always try to limit my gas use for financial and environmental reasons, so do you. Here is a short list of the ways I change my car and driving to save gas:
  1. Fewer trips - obvious: take the bike, carpool, many errands on same trip, walk, etc.
  2. Drive slower - the speed limit is a good easy estimate. Most automatic transmission cars are most efficient at the speed when they shift into their highest gear. For example, my 1991 Toyota Camry station wagon shifts into 5th gear at 55mpg - if I kept driving 55 and was always in 5th gear, that is where my car would be most efficient. Driving slower also makes you more efficient by limiting the impact of wind resistance - it increases exponentially about 55mph. My goal speed depends on how much of a rush I'm in (see below).
  3. Don't rush - makes you drive slower (above) but also prevents rapid acceleration or braking. Braking kills your efficiency, downshifting to accelerate does too - and these are things you do when you're rushed (i.e., trying to pass others, coming up too fast on a light or another, slower, car).
  4. Get a fuel consumption gauge to tell you your efficiency - I like the Scangauge II but it only works on cars that are relatively new (about 1992 and higher, using the OBD II connection system). Lets you see what changes in your habits and car do to your efficiency.
  5. Basic maintenance - change the oil, get a tune up. This is probably the easiest thing you can do and it will save you money in other repairs over time.
  6. Inflate your tires - even over inflate them a little (just a little, not more than 5psi unless you're feeling like you can risk death without inconveniencing your friends and family - a .05% increase in efficiency is probably not worth the risk of a .05% increased risk of death or injury if for no other reason than it will probably cost more to repair your car after a tire blows out then you'll save.
  7. Put a cover over your front grill - keeps the engine warmer (and sooner) which is good for max MPG and makes you a little more aerodynamic (but just a little on most cars). You can go crazy making your car more "aero" but the returns are usually limited. The grill cover gives you the most increase in efficiency for the lowest cost and time. I'm going to use coroplast (corogated plastic - get it at a sign store, they'll give you scraps for free usually - also useful for guinea pig cages).
  8. Get okay fuel - Sierra club rated the big gas companies, BP seems to be on top, Chevron and 76 in the middle, Shell super lame. I've heard from mechanics to get 76 or Chevron also, but I believe the "quality" of your gas depends more on the individual station and whatever sediment or other crap their tanks have collected over time. Who knows, Costco is probably a good bet too - at least the price is right and they have no reason to screw over members who give them such easy money.
  9. Draft trucks - dangerous to get too close, but following a big truck gives you a small increase in efficiency. Don't get too close - it's more efficient generally, but if you have to brake even a little it overcomes any advantage you gain from drafting.
  10. Want to do more? Become a "hypermiler" by looking for tips at www.ecomodder.com
  11. Longer list (100+!) here

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