It’s true… and you don’t need much more than a willingness to try changing a few “bad” habits you may have picked up when gas was cheap.
According to an experiment at Ford, drivers who were taught simple ‘eco-driving’ techniques improved their fuel economy by an average of 24%, with some having over 50% improvement. (Pro Tip: The drivers with the worst habits have the most to gain!)
Here are a few things you can do to help reduce your fuel costs. Each item is rated on a 5-star scale, depending on how effective and easy do see meaningful results. This article will cover the basics, while we may save the more advanced techniques for a future post.
As always, your personal safety and the safety of those around you on the road is our main concern at BrightFleet. When trying anything new to you, please always understand that a safe driver is also an efficient driver. (Tickets and accidents still cost much more than gasoline, at least for now.)
Start tracking your fuel mileage [ 5 – stars ]
Proven Technique – This first one may seem like it doesn’t belong in an article about driving, but when it comes to saving gas money – it’s literally the most important fuel-efficiency tip we can offer. If you don’t know where you started, how can you know if the things you are trying are actually helping you? Begin today tracking your own fuel mileage. Our own records indicate a 6% improvement in fuel economy just by tracking performance and being aware of consumption. Knowing how much you consume and how much you are saving will go a long way to encouraging you to continue improving. This Fuel Mileage Spreadsheet is an easy and free way to track your mileage. Alternatively, some people prefer a pen and paper log book.
Accelerate gradually and smoothly [ 5 – stars ]
Proven Technique – Accelerating gradually and smoothly from a stop conserves a great deal of fuel. Fast starts, weaving in and out of traffic and hard braking wastes fuel and wears out some of the car components, such as brakes and tires, more quickly. Maintain a safe distance between vehicles and anticipate traffic conditions to allow for more time to brake and accelerate gradually.
Don’t hurry to the next stoplight [ 5 – stars ]
Proven Technique – Do not attain speed unless there is room to use the momentum. If there is another stop light, traffic, etc, in the short distance, there is no benefit to attaining speed. Why pay for acceleration only to brake and waste the acceleration and gasoline required to attain speed?
Slow down and maintain speed [ 5 – stars ]
Proven Technique – Drive 65 miles per hour or less on highways. EPA estimates a 10-15 percent improvement in fuel economy by following this tip. Also, aim for a constant speed, allowing the car to slow slightly going up-hill, and regain lost speed once the hill is crested.
Consolidate trips and carpool when you can [ 4 – stars ]
Common Sense -Plan ahead to consolidate your trips. This will enable you to bypass congested routes, idle less, have fewer start-ups and less stop-and-go traffic. Whenever feasible, share a ride and/or carpool.
Yield the right of way to aggressive drivers [ 4 – stars ]
Common Sense – Let overly aggressive drivers pass by at the first opportunity. It’s easier that way. If you let them recklessly harangue and cajole you from behind, you may find yourself driving in an unsafe and inefficient way as well. It’s better to let them by, smile and wave — as they storm by in hasty frustration — letting them waste their own fuel on their way to going nowhere fast.
Check your tire pressure [ 4 – stars ]
Keep tires properly inflated to the recommended tire pressure. This alone can reduce the average amount of fuel use by 3-4 percent. Under-inflated tires increase rolling resistance and reduce fuel economy. They also wear more rapidly. Check the vehicle’s door-post sticker for minimum cold tire inflation pressure.
No idling [ 4 – stars ]
Today’s engines don’t need a warm up. Start the car immediately and gently drive away. Don’t leave your car idling. Prolonged idling increases emissions and wastes fuel. Turn the engine off in non-traffic situations, such as at bank and fast food drive-up windows, when idling more than 30 seconds.
Close windows at high speeds [ 3 – stars ]
Don’t drive with the windows open unless your keep your speed under 50 mph. Driving with the windows open at highway speeds increases aerodynamic drag on the vehicle and lowers fuel economy.
Don’t drive while hungry, angry or tired (if possible) [ 3 – stars ]
Common Sense – Often easier said than done, we admit. Aside from the obvious safety issues, these conditions/emotions don’t exactly promote patience and gentleness. If you can induce yourself into a Zen-like blissful state, great. Just do your best to avoid these situations — grab a sandwich, count to ten or catch a twenty-minute power nap.
Maintain your vehicle [ 2 – stars ]
Maintain proper engine tune-up to keep vehicles running efficiently. Keep the wheels aligned. Wheels that are fighting each other waste fuel. Replace air filters as recommended. Use a fuel with good detergent additives to keep the vehicle engine clean and performing efficiently. Always consult the Owner’s Manual for proper maintenance.
Travel lighter [ 2 – stars ]
Avoid piling a lot of luggage on the roof rack. The added frontal area reduces aerodynamics and will hurt fuel economy, reducing it by as much as 5 percent. Remove excess weight from the vehicle. Unnecessary weight, such as unneeded items in the trunk, makes the engine work harder and consumes more fuel.
Choose the correct oil [ 2 – stars ]
Use good quality oils with the viscosity grade recommended in the owner guide. Ford recommends SAE 5W-20 oil for most cars and trucks to provide the best fuel economy. Only oils “certified for gasoline engines” by the American Petroleum Institute (API) with the starburst symbol should be used.