Oct
9
2007

9 Ways To Get 75 Extra Miles Out Of Your Car – Fuel Efficiency

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Gas has become a huge expense for many. Its time tweak our usage of this commodity. If you are trying to make money it just might start with saving it. Here’s a few tips that will help you squeeze a few extra dollars and miles out of each tank of gas.

First let me explain that I’ve been running this as an experiment for the past 6 weeks and am reporting my findings based on the average. I generally have to fill up my tank once a week and I drive a 2007 Honda Accord (fully loaded – V6) which I did this test with. Results may vary from car to car.

I am assuming a 15 gallon tank and and automatic shift car for the following figures and techniques. My usage prior to this experiment was 21 miles per gallon (I would not consider myself an aggressive driver). After the changes I was getting 26 miles per gallon. This can be calculated by recording the old mileage number on your receipt and divide that number by your gallons. Then remember to zero out the meter for your next run.

9 Ways To Get 75 Extra Miles Out Of Your Car:

  1. The 2000 RPM Rule: This is a fundamental principal I followed throughout this exercise. Never allow your RPM to exceed 2000. Anything over this is only acceptable after you’ve hit 5th gear. Your car works less for the same RPM’s in higher gears thus becoming more efficient. The higher your RPM’s the more fuel you are consuming because your engine is working harder.
  2. Slow startups: After stopping at a traffic light or stop sign start up slowly following rule one. When your car just barely hits above the 2000 RPM mark, lightly lay off the accelerator for a brief second and allow the car to shift gears early. In many cases you can do this so subtly that you are actually applying a slight big of gas while the gear shifts. If you accelerate right up to 2000 RPM your car will not shift. There is a ratio (that is probably different with every car) between your MPH and your RPM’s. For example, to hit first gear in my Accord and stay below 2000 RPM, I must reach 15 MPH. The key is keeping your RPM below 2000 until you get to that point for the subtle release (and then repeat for the next gear).
  3. 3) Neutral stops. When you’re at a stoplight for an extended period of time (usually because it just changed red as you got there) shift your car into neutral. This provides minor savings by causing less stress on the car. Generally in the drive gear you would move along at 5 MPH assuming a flat surface. That five MPH is expending gas. So when you’re at a stoplight with the gear in drive and your break petal down, you’re canceling out that energy. Putting your car in neutral prevents that energy from being expended. UPDATE: In newer cars the opposite is true for this. They’ve made some improvements in which its actually better to stay in drive. Test it out for yourself in your car. When you’re at an stop, switch it from drive to neutral. If your RPM’s drop then its better for you to be in neutral. If not, use neutral only for use in point four and then immediately switch into drive.
  4. On a similar note to the previous point, when you’re approaching a light that you know you will have to wait at. Prematurely switch your gear into neutral and glide to your stop. I always find it humorous to see people still accelerating 20 feet before they get to a stoplight. One route that I travel frequently allows me to hit 60 on an express way. I shift to neutral early on and generally get half a mile of glide that consumes no gas. Its convenient because the speed limit drops to 30 and ends at a stoplight that is always red. Why do I use neutral to glide in? When I glide to a stop in the drive gear you can actually feel the down shifting of your car. This slows you down and subtracts the amount of gliding you can do. Plus once you get to the stoplight you’re all set in neutral to wait out the light.
  5. Avoid stopping or parking on an incline. I live in the Chicago area so hills are somewhat rare, however when I visit friends far out from the suburbs this can become a problem. If you park on an incline you’re going to expend many more RPM’s climbing up it from a stopped position. Its like pushing a rock up a hill. Its easier if you apply constant momentum to an object already in motion. If that object stops moving, its going to require twice as much energy to get it started again. That said, try to park on the declining side of hills.
  6. Gear sweet spots – Every gear has a sweet spot. I define this by the MPH your are going just after your gear shifts up. For example. My sweet spot for 3rd gear is about 31MPH and allows my car to do 1500 RPM at the beginning of the 3rd gear. If the speed limit is 40 MPH I would still be in 3rd gear and have to do 2000 RPM. This is extra gas consumption in action. So what do you do? Speed up to 43-45 and allow your gear to shift to the 4th gear. Then keep your speed limit at 41ish to utilize your 4th gears sweet spot at 1500 RPM. You are actually getting further and consuming just as much as when you were in the sweet spot for the 3rd gear as in the 4th. This is why city driving is known to suck up all your gas.
  7. Drafting – Driving behind trucks makes me nuts, but after seeing a recent episode on Mythbusters they proved a 25% savings in gas when driving 20 feet behind a semi on the highway (and more the closer you get – but don’t push it).
  8. Avoid multiple spurts of acceleration. Keep your foot consistent and make changes smoothly. Cruise control helps a lot for this even if you’re only going 30 MPH. Cruise control can also be efficient when accelerating to desired speeds which you can set early on in your route. Note: I’m not sure how other cars act, but my cruise control only works after I hit 25 MPH. If I set the cruise speed high early on in my route, as soon as I hit 25 I could easily kick it in to guide me through gears three through five.
  9. Look ahead – Don’t accelerate if you don’t need to. Look five cars ahead, note if they’re breaking. If you see tail lights then don’t waste gas accelerating. This is common gas eater when the driver you’re behind is either A) Using tactics like this to save gas or B) Tailgating in which case you can never really tell when they’re coming to a stop or trying to back off the car in front of them.

These techniques didn’t take me long to get used to at all. Once you have mastered them and the feel of your own car you’ll start to see some extra mileage. I want to remind everyone, while saving money is nice, its better to break the 2000 RPM rule to avoid accidents. These techniques are not meant for entering the highway for example.

Common Misconceptions:
its easy to assume it will take you longer getting to places when using some of these techniques (especially the slow start ups one). It might be a curve of my own perspective, but I didn’t seem to get to my destinations any slower then two or three months ago. My own reasoning for this may contribute to the fact that most drivers accelerate hard at stoplights and then slow down to the speed limit. Shortly after I catch up to them because of that, or more likely due to slower drivers in front of them.

Also note: On weeks that I traveled to places I was unfamiliar with, I tended to ignore most of these gas efficiency techniques to pay more attention to signs and turns. If you frequently drive the same route (to work for example). These tips are much easier to implement. I seldom have to get on the highway so a lot of this is a great gas saver for the frequent city and suburb drivers. Since I was limited to doing this with my own car I’m curious if any other makes/models can achieve even better mileage and savings. Test it out for a week or two and let me know in the comments! In the meantime avoid these common gas myths. Until cars run electrically or I can afford this baby, I’ll be applying these methods.

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