Pay Less at the Pumps: 8 Proven Strategies to Get Better Gas Mileage and Fuel Economy
These savvy gas-saving strategies can improve your fuel economy and slash your car’s operating costs.
Save Money on Gas by Driving Slower
Hard acceleration in stop-and-go driving costs you 20 per cent in gas mileage. If you live your life in rush hour traffic and like to put the pedal to the metal, spend all your extra time at the next stoplight figuring out how you could have spent the money you’re wasting. Oh, and restarting your car doesn’t use more fuel than idling—here’s why.
Get Better Gas Mileage by Keeping Your Tires at the Right Pressure
Surveys show that 60 per cent of the vehicles on the road have tires that are underinflated by at least 30 per cent. That’s at least 9 psi below the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. That can cost you almost 7 per cent in wasted fuel. Plus, low air pressure causes premature tire wear, and that can cost almost $300 over the life of the tires. For best results, check your tire’s air pressure with a digital pressure gauge (about $10 at any auto parts store) and fill to the recommended pressure shown on the decal inside the driver’s door or on the driver’s door pillar. Don’t miss this expert advice on how to make your car tires last longer.
Save on Fuel by Changing Spark Plugs
If your 160,000-km spark plugs have 130,000 km on them, they’re 80 per cent worn. Misfires and incomplete combustion occur more frequently during that last 32,000 km, costing you hundreds of dollars in wasted fuel. You have to replace your spark plugs anyway, so do it early and pocket the savings. Even if you have to replace the plugs one extra time over the life of your car, you’ll still come out way ahead. And don’t automatically assume your plugs are good for 160,000 km. Many four-cylinder engines require new spark plugs at either 50,000- or 100,000-km intervals. Want to tackle this job yourself? Here are step-by-step instructions for replacing spark plugs.
Get Better Gas Mileage by Changing Your Air Filter
Your engine sucks in 53 million litres of air through the filter every year. On older vehicles (pre-1999), a dirty air filter increases fuel usage by almost 10 per cent. On newer vehicles, the computer is smart enough to detect the lower airflow, and it cuts back on fuel. So your engine will lack power and pick-up. Check the filter when you change your oil and replace it at least once a year, or more if you drive in dirty, dusty conditions. Here’s how to replace your car’s air filter.
Get Better Gas Mileage by Keeping Your Car Aligned
If your tires are bowed out of alignment by just 4.2 cm, it’s the equivalent of dragging your tire sideways for 164 km for every 32,000 you drive. That’ll cost you hundreds a year in wasted gas. It will also wear your tires faster, costing you hundreds more. Here’s an easy way to check your alignment without taking your car in to the shop: Buy a tread depth gauge ($2) and measure the tread depth on both edges of each tire (rear tires too). If one side of the tire is worn more than the other, your car needs to be aligned. Find out the 10 overlooked services that can extend the life of your vehicle. (Psst—checking the alignment is one of them!)
Get Better Gas Mileage by Replacing a Broken or Missing Spoiler
The plastic air dam (aka “spoiler”) that’s broken or missing wasn’t installed just for a sporty look. If your car had an air dam, driving without it or with a damaged one can reduce your gas mileage. The air dam literally “dams off” airflow to the undercarriage of your car, forcing the air up and over the hood. That helps your car cut through the air with less drag. It also increases airflow to the A/C condenser and radiator, reducing the load on your car’s electrical system. Here are 13 more ways you’re shortening the life of your car.
Get Better Gas Mileage by Reducing Drag
Yes, you’ve heard it before, but how about some real world numbers to drive the point home? Aerodynamic drag is a minor concern in city driving, but it really kills your gas mileage at speeds over 90 km/h. In fact, increasing your speed to 105 km/h increases drag by 36 per cent! If you do a lot of highway driving, getting to your destination a few minutes early could cost you hundreds of dollars extra a year. Keep it closer to 90 km/h and use your cruise control. It will pay off. Here are 13 car features you might not know you had.
Get Better Gas Mileage by Replacing Oxygen Sensors Before the Dashboard Warning Light Goes On
Oxygen sensors monitor the efficiency of combustion by tracking the amount of oxygen remaining in the exhaust. But they degrade over time and that can cost you up to 15 per cent in gas mileage. When they fail, the computer lights up your “service engine soon” light, forcing you to incur a diagnostic fee. (Here’s what each of those dashboard warning lights really mean.) On pre-1996 vehicles, replace your oxygen sensor every 96,000 km to keep your mileage at its peak. On 1996 and newer vehicles, replace the sensors every 160,000 km. Oxygen sensors cost about $60 each. Some vehicles have as many as four, but the sensors installed behind the catalytic converter rarely fail.