Many people depend on gas-powered vehicles for their daily commute. Hybrid and electric cars are becoming more prominent but may only be available for some.
Driving a gas-powered car means you emit greenhouse gasses (GHG), but there are ways to make your trips more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly.
Here are eight methods for maximizing fuel usage and being a better friend to the planet.
1. Drive Carefully
Increasing fuel efficiency starts with your driving habits. Drive carefully to ensure your car works only as hard as necessary. For example, avoid hard braking and acceleration unless an emergency arises.
Either action compromises your fuel mileage because your vehicle exerts more energy to stop or start the machine. Hard braking and acceleration also wear your parts and reduce their effectiveness faster, hurting your wallet at the mechanic.
Instead, be a mindful driver and take it easy behind the wheel. Drive at or under the speed limit because speeding costs your fuel economy the faster you go. Fuel-efficient drivers anticipate when to brake and coast to a stop instead of heavily relying on their brake pedals to do the hard work. These adjustments may seem small, but they increase fuel mileage versus reckless drivers.
2. Use Telematics Devices
Truck drivers typically have 11-hour days on the road, driving about 500 to 600 miles. How do these professionals monitor their driving habits despite the long hours? Many fleet managers install telematics devices in their vehicles. These gadgets observe drivers’ performances throughout their commute by watching their speed, braking patterns, location and other valuable information.
Regular drivers can use telematics devices to monitor their driving — especially concerning fuel efficiency. Telematics gadgets optimize your daily commute by telling you which routes are the quickest for reaching your destination. Weather, traffic, accidents and other factors can lead to idle time and wasted fuel. Telematics devices also increase safety by tracking your car if it’s stolen and detecting engine problems before they become apparent.
3. Utilize Cruise Control
Does your commute consist of long stretches of highways and interstates? These roads typically take you in a straight line with minimal stops, letting you hold a constant speed.
You don’t need to accelerate or decelerate much, but it can be tempting to press the pedals. How can you maintain your speed along the highway? Acceleration and deceleration harm fuel mileage, so utilizing cruise control is crucial for your driving.
Most vehicles have cruise control to let the electric system control the throttle and maintain a steady speed. Cruise control takes accelerating and braking out of the equation, saving fuel you may waste otherwise. Plus, staying at or below the speed limit reduces your risk of getting pulled over and ticketed.
4. Change the Air Filter
The engine is the heart of your car, so caring for it is essential to fuel efficiency. The air filter is one of the most critical parts because it prevents dirt and debris from harming your engine. Your motor needs clean air to run correctly and efficiently, so it relies on the air filter. Unfortunately, this device can become clogged over time if you drive on dirt roads and other unpaved terrain.
Clogged air filters make your engine work harder than usual, burning fuel unnecessarily. Check your air filter to ensure it’s clean and functioning as it should. A good rule of thumb is to replace the filter every 30,000 miles or every two years, depending on how often you commute and your driving conditions.
5. Upgrade the Spark Plugs
When you crank the engine, your spark plugs ignite the combustion chamber filled with air and fuel. These tiny devices may seem unimportant, but they’re critical for making your car go and ensuring fuel efficiency. If the spark plugs aren’t working correctly, your vehicle’s fuel efficiency will take a hit and cost you more at the gas pump. Replace your spark plugs according to the manufacturer’s recommendations for best results.
Consider what material you get from the store when replacing your spark plugs. The least expensive spark plug contains copper and is what most cars use. While copper spark plugs will last long, consider upgrading to platinum or iridium devices. Iridium is the highest quality because it has excellent durability and a small electrode gap. Platinum spark plugs also improve your fuel economy if you want a middle ground.
6. Align the Tires
The engine is the most critical system regarding fuel mileage. However, don’t forget about other sections of your car and how they contribute to your efficiency. For example, your tires have a more significant impact than you think, starting with tire alignment.
Over time, your tires may become misaligned. Potholes, curbs and poorly maintained roads can harm your tires by causing premature wear and ruining their alignment. Misaligned tires harm your fuel mileage, so get a tire alignment according to your owner’s manual. Most will say once every year or two. Correctly aligned tires make your car’s life easier and improve fuel efficiency.
7. Properly Inflate the Tires
Your tires also matter for fuel economy because of their air pressure. Some people intentionally lower their pounds per square inch (psi) to improve traction, which can be necessary when going off-road. Others overinflate their tires to reduce tire wear. While each approach has pros and cons, your safest bet is to inflate the tires properly. This method ensures your tires give you the proper fuel efficiency on the road.
The Department of Energy (DOE) says proper inflation improves your gas mileage by 0.6% on average, while some vehicles can see up to a 3% enhancement. The precise psi you need for your tires depends on your car, so check the manufacturer’s recommendations. Most automakers will recommend between 30 and 35 psi. Keeping your psi in this range decreases your rolling resistance and ensures your vehicle gets the best fuel economy possible.
8. Bring a Light Load
Gearing up for vacation means packing your car, truck and SUV with suitcases, bikes, tents and other items to make your trip fun. While these belongings are essential, you should watch how much you pack because the added weight negatively impacts your fuel mileage. More weight means more power your engine has to use to move, thus reducing efficiency. The DOE says every 100 pounds reduces your fuel economy by 2%, adding up in the long run.
Instead, pack wisely and only bring the materials you need for your trip. Search for items you can swap for smaller and lighter substitutes. For example, suppose your beach vacation will only last a weekend. Bring a lightweight bag or backpack instead of a large suitcase to fit your clothes. Every pound matters for your fuel economy, so ensure your load is light when embarking on your journey.
Ensuring a Fuel-Efficient Ride Every Time
Traveling without a car is difficult in many places, especially if you live in rural areas. Your only option may be to drive a gas-burning car to reach your destination. Electric vehicles may be too expensive and inaccessible to some, so they must work with what they have.
These eight methods help drivers become more efficient on the road and reduce their carbon emissions. Proper maintenance and safe driving habits go a long way in improving your fuel economy.