Fuel Efficiency – Ways to Improve Gas Mileage

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Fuel Efficiency – Ways to Improve Gas Mileage

Fuel efficiency is a priority for everyone these days. This page will show you ways to increase your gas mileage, or mpg, through vehicle upgrades and changes to your driving style.

It is dedicated to providing hints and tips on improving your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, also known as fuel economy.

Calculator tools will help you determine your gas mileage baseline. You can then determine the impact that various changes and upgrades have on your fuel efficiency by comparing your new results with that initial baseline.

We’ll start with simpler, lower costing upgrades to get the ball rolling and get you on your way to improved fuel efficiency. The great thing is the simplest and lowest costing changes can easily have just as big of an impact on fuel efficiency as more advanced or costlier upgrades!

This page will continually update with do-it-yourself tips and quality product recommendations that will make a big difference in any vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

Objectives

  1. Determine Your Gas Mileage (MPG) and Annual Fuel Cost
  2. Implement Upgrades and Changes
  3. See Results by Comparing to Your Initial Baseline

The “Ways to Save” here are numbered to help you with the navigation of the page, but are in no specific order in terms of importance—they all work to improve your gas mileage.

Many comment on how the separate upgrades seem to cooperate and work together synergistically in improving performance (the 2+2=5 notion).

Make sure to determine your mpg baseline initially (with the calculators below) to eventually see the significant effect the upgrades/changes you implement have on the fuel efficiency of your vehicle.

Gas Mileage (MPG) Calculator: Determine Your Fuel Efficiency Baseline

Calculate a vehicle’s mpg to determine its current fuel efficiency. When you find ways to save and make changes and upgrades to your vehicle and driving style, you can note the progress you’ve made by comparing to this baseline.

To get started, it would be a great idea to check your vehicle’s current fuel efficiency by determining its gas mileage, or mpg, this can help you note the progress you’re making with the hints, tips, and products recommended on this site; and calculating you’re mpg is also just a great practice in general as it helps you be more conscious about your fuel efficiency.

It’s like checking your weight when dieting and exercising. Here are the steps to check your vehicle’s current mpg:

1. Fill your gas tank to the top and prepare to begin counting your miles.

After filling up and topping off your gas tank at the gas station, simply push the trip meter to zero it out, or note your vehicle’s total mileage on the odometer.

2. Use up the gas as you normally would.

Drive your vehicle as you normally would and later, when your vehicle is close to empty, return to the gas station to fill up.

3. Note the miles driven and the gas used to travel those miles.

Now there are two things you need to determine your mpg, which are the miles you drove and the gallons you used to drive those miles. So after filling up again, look at your trip meter or odometer to determine how many miles you traveled since that last fill up- say it is 320 miles. Then note how many gallons it took to fill up, say for example it took 14 gallons.

4. Run the calculation to determine your mpg.

If you don’t have a calculator handy you could probably use your cell phone as most have a built-in calculator: In this example, the total number of miles driven was 320, and the gallons of gas used to drive them was 14, so the calculation is: 320 miles ÷ 14 gallons = 22.9 miles-per-gallon or “22.9 mpg”.

This number will fluctuate some depending on the amount of city miles vs. highway miles you drove, as well as your driving style and environmental conditions etc., but is a very accurate figure as to your vehicles current fuel efficiency.

Another great tool is the report that is offered every year by the EPA, or “Environmental Protection Agency”. This annual report gives the EPA estimated city and highway mpg for each vehicle.

You can find your vehicle’s EPA estimates by referring to the appropriate annual report in PDF format on this page: www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/download.shtml

My Chevy Silverado pickup has an EPA estimated 13 mpg for city and 17 mpg for highway. Keep in mind that these figures are for the vehicles as they come stock.

I was consistently getting around 14.6 mpg when I first got this pickup, with the upgrades I have put on and the various steps I have taken to improve fuel efficiency, I now consistently get about 18.5 mpg.

This page will serve to give you hints and tips to improve your vehicles current mpg figure, as well as refer you to quality products that offer a great return on investment by saving you money at the pump and helping your vehicle run optimally.

Annual Fuel Cost Calculator

After determining your vehicle’s gas mileage, and before determining new ways to save, use your vehicle’s mpg to find your approximate gas cost per year for your vehicle.

I think it is this step of determining an annual cost of gas that can really enlighten people to the importance of fuel efficiency, and subsequently really encourages people to find ways to increase gas mileage.

Also, this annual cost figure serves to inform people as to the impact that various vehicle upgrades or changes to their driving style can make. They can see the effect an upgrade or change to their driving style has on their annual fuel cost bottom line.

It is interesting to see what even a 1 or 2 mpg increase in your vehicle can save you in a year.

There are many products that save you much more than what you actually spend on them, making them great investments for you and your vehicle.

We’ll cover them eventually but it is important to get a good idea as to how much you are spending per year on gas so I encourage you to do this by grabbing a calculator and running this quick calculation:

Total miles driven in a year / Your vehicle’s mpg x the price per gallon of gas (annual average price)

1. First, approximate the number of miles you put on your vehicle in a year. For me, it’s about 15,000 miles.

2. Then divide it by your mpg, I’ll use my initial 14.6 mpg my pickup had when I first got it. After this step, you will have the approximate number of gallons of gas you use per year.

3. Take that last number, which is the total number of gallons of gas you use per year, and multiply it by the price of gas (I know gas prices fluctuate significantly but decide on an annual average). This will give you the approximate cost of gas for you in a year.

Let’s run my calculation:

15,000 miles ÷ 14.6 mpg × $3.50 per gallon = $3,596 per year

Now, lets calculate my annual cost of gas if I bump up my fuel efficiency by 2 mpg:

15,000 miles ÷ 16.6 mpg × $3.50 per gallon = $3,163 per year

That’s a savings of: 2,397 − 2,108 = $433. In other words, I save approximately $433 by increasing my fuel efficiency by just 2 mpg. I was actually able to increase my mpg by 3.9 (from 14.6 to 18.5). You can run the calculation on that to see the actual savings, its pretty significant.

There is some sense of responsibility that’s important to note here as well. Though the savings are great, I find that the most satisfying aspect of implementing these changes is knowing that I’m being more efficient with what I have (in this case, in terms of fuel efficiency); the extra financial savings that go along with it are simply a tangible form of that satisfaction.

In this page I’ll show you some practical ways that anyone can improve their fuel efficiency and refer you to quality products, many of which I use myself, to help you increase your mpg.

It also matter how you drive, I’ve written a separate article on fuel efficient driving here.

The Importance of Synthetic Motor Oil

Along with a little boost in fuel economy, synthetic oil offers significant benefits to your vehicle and I highly recommend it over regular motor oil or any other oil type.

Before getting into all the ways to save on gas and improve your fuel efficiency, I think it is important to highlight this all important upgrade. Many claim that synthetic oil does have a positive impact on fuel economy.

I believe I have seen a slight gain in fuel economy since switching over, but either way synthetic oil is so beneficial for your vehicle so I’ll include it on this page.

Below is a pack of 6 quarts on Amazon with great reviews. Synthetic oil is widely considered to be superior to regular engine oil. A major benefit of synthetic oil over regular engine oil is that it flows better at lower temperatures, reducing wear and tear on a vehicle that gets started in the cold.

The interesting thing most vehicle owners don’t realize is that it saves you money. Synthetic oil costs more per ounce than regular engine oil, but keep in mind that synthetic oil can be used in your vehicle for 2–3 times longer than regular engine oil.

In the end you can save money, and reduce wear and tear on your vehicle. Synthetic oil is a win-win.

Ways to Save #1 – Fuel System Cleaner

Let’s kick things off with my experience with the industry-leading product.

I highly recommend Sea Foam’s Fuel System Cleaner. It has been a staple in the tune-up industry and gets high marks from customers and mechanics alike. It removes deposits and essentially improves the flow of gas through your fuel injectors, which are actually about the size of a human hair.

You simply poor this into your tank when it is close to empty and then put about 12 gallons of gas in. This cleaner flow ultimately improves engine performance and fuel economy.

After using this industry leading product, I saw a 2 mile-per-gallon increase (from 16 mpg to 18 mpg) in my pickup’s fuel economy. For me that translates into about a $365 savings per year:

15,000 miles per year ÷ 16 mpg = 937.5 gallons… × $3.50 per gallon = $3281.25.5
15,000 miles per gallon ÷ 18 mpg = 833.33 gallons… × $3.50 per gallon = $2916.67

That’s a savings of: 2187.5 − 1942.5 = $364.58 per year.

If you have not used an injector cleaner on your vehicle before, you will likely see similar gains in mileage after using this—some have noticed further gains upon doing a second treatment with this as well.

These fuel economy gains make this product a great investment both financially as well as for the longevity of your vehicle. About once or twice per year, simply poor it into a close to empty tank before putting about 15 gallons of gas in.

Complete Fuel System Tune-Up Kits

Complete kits are designed to thoroughly clean the various parts of your fuel system.

Though an additive such as Chevron Techron’s Fuel System Cleaner, as mentioned above, is a sufficient product for cleaning your fuel system and removing deposits in your fuel lines and injectors, it is important to maintain other aspects that contribute to your fuel systems performance such as manifolds, intakes, and the throttle body/plate.

This can be done by a mechanic as a regular tune-up, but there are also do-it-yourself kits that will get the job done as well.

A similar tune-up from an auto shop or dealer normally costs $150+. This do-it-yourself kit is very easy to use regardless of your experience level with mechanical work and should make a big difference in the way your vehicle performs.

People comment on the noticeable change in the performance and handling of their vehicle upon the thorough cleaning provided by this product. This product will retrieve any untapped fuel efficiency lost due to deposits and build-up within your fuel system.

Ways to Save #2 – Ensure Adequate Tire Pressure

I’ve heard it said that there are few car tires on the road that are actually inflated to their optimal psi. Not only is this important for safety reasons and the longevity of your vehicle, but it has a major impact on the fuel economy of your vehicle as well.

To ensure proper inflation, you can find a sticker on the inside of your front door, or consult your owner’s manual to find the optimal tire pressure.

Then use a tire pressure gauge and an air compressor, as shown below, to ensure the proper air pressure is put in the tires.

Ways to Save #3 – Cold Air Intakes

How Cold Air Intakes Improve Your Vehicle’s Performance and Fuel Efficiency

Cold air intakes sound great when you rev the engine, and look great when you pop the hood. What a cold air intake essentially does is replace your stock air filter and improve the flow of air into your engine.

Since air is a major component to the explosions in your pistons that are required to run your engine, improving the airflow into these makes a significant difference in the way your vehicle performs.

Mechanics and car enthusiasts understand the significant benefits that are derived from a cold air intake, but most vehicle owners aren’t aware of the benefits these intakes offer.

Due to the increased airflow, there is a boost in torque, horsepower, as well as fuel efficiency, or mpg. Increases in torque and horsepower are fun and have their uses, but increases in mpg will save you money.

Cold air intakes are an investment, and for most people, the cold air intake will pay for itself within a year through the savings you gain from the increase in fuel efficiency (refer to the mpg and annual fuel cost calculators above to see the gains).

There are many companies that make cold air intake. A few of the more prominent ones include Spectre, AEM, and K&N. I personally use a Spectre Cold Air Intake and saw a 2 mpg increase after installing it.

I use K&N’s Recharger Kit to clean and maintain my cold air intake. Each cold air intake comes in many models in order to fit in various vehicles. It is important for you to determine which cold air intake fits in your vehicle.

What I will do in the next few sections is refer you to the appropriate air intake model for some of the most popular vehicles out there today.

Recharge Kits for Your Cold Air Intake

K&N makes great recharge kits that serve to clean, oil, and maintain your cold air intake.

I use this kit to remove dust and particle build-up in my cold air intake. About once or twice a year, its a good idea to use a kit like this to remove any buildup that may have accumulated in your filter.

I find, and others have commented also, that one of these kits offers about three to four “recharges” for your cold air intake.

A cleaning kit is a must-have product when you use a cold-air intake; this product fits the bill and when I use this kit, I immediately recoup any lost fuel efficiency that may have resulted from a buildup of dust and particles in my cold air intake.

A major component of this kit is the oil that you use to coat the filter after cleaning it.

This oil traps any unwanted particles and ensures only clean, fresh air is traveling through your engine. Consistent use of this product will keep your air intake running optimally.

Ways to Save #4 – Exhaust Upgrades

Improving the outflow of air from your engine results in gains in performance and fuel efficiency.

Exhaust upgrades not only add to the appeal of your vehicle by showcasing the sound and power of your engine—the increased air flow offered by an aftermarket muffler/exhaust system can significantly improve gas mileage by decreasing what’s called back pressure (air restriction) in your vehicle’s airflow.

It is often said that significant gains can be seen when a cold air intake is combined with a high-flow muffler. The decreased back-pressure offered by the muffler, coupled with improved air induction offered by the cold air intake, makes for a significant increase in airflow in your vehicle, and subsequently big gains in power and fuel efficiency as air is a major component of the “combustion” that powers your engine.

In the future I hope to provide more hints and tips in this section on how to go about improving your exhaust. You have options ranging from a simple aftermarket muffler installation, a cat-back system (from the catalytic converter on back), to a complete system that even entails the exhaust manifold coming right off the engine.

Ways to Save #5 – Tonneau Covers

Tonneau covers protect your cargo while improving your gas mileage!

I own a tonneau cover and love it. It has a low profile, as compared to a topper, yet still is capable of protecting cargo in the bed of your truck. Tonneau covers are multi-functional; they offer a way to shield your cargo from the elements, as well as offer an increase in fuel efficiency, or mpg. A tonneau cover usually adds about 1 mpg to a vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

Check out this Sema.org page on tonneau covers to learn more: Do Tonneu Covers Really Improve Gas Mileage?. This usually amounts to over $100 savings in gas per year, granted you are putting on 10,000 miles per year on your vehicle (You can do the math with the calculators above).

In other words, your tonneau cover will pay for itself soon; from that break-even point you will be saving money and have a great cover to protect your cargo from the elements.

Ways to Save #6 – Aftermarket Grilles

The right aftermarket grille can make a significant difference in your gas mileage.

Aftermarket grilles often allow for increased airflow through your vehicle and can make a big impact at high speeds (highway/interstate driving) on your fuel economy. Grilles are very popular upgrades for pickup owners. Be sure that the grille is made for your specific vehicle.

Ways to Save #7 – Programmers/Tuners

Trim engine waste and optimize your vehicle’s performance with a programmer, also called a tuner.

A programmer is a little more spendy than the other “ways to save” mentioned in this article, but they really are a great investment. A programmer will likely pay for itself in gas savings in just 2-3 years.

In addition to improved fuel efficiency, a programmer offers an assortment of tools to help you fine tune and keep an eye on your vehicle’s performance. Some of the features of today’s programmers include programming options for:

  • Increasing horsepower, torque, and MPG
  • Tuning across the power band, offering more power at any RPM
  • Optimizing performance for various towing weights
  • Reading and addressing trouble codes (codes used by mechanics etc. to diagnose vehicle problems)
  • Optimizing transmission settings to keep you in the appropriate gear at all times
  • Implementing limiters on top speed, temperature, and engine rev
  • Adjusting engine performance upon changes in tire size

A lot of programmers contain many if not all of the capabilities mentioned above. They will generally plug right into your OBD-II, which is a port located right under your dash.

People will often set them up with a dock for convenient display and access right on their dash, like a GPS. Many programmers also come with a software component compatible with the latest operating systems, which allows you to see detailed diagnostics and attributes of your vehicle’s recent performance—just connect the programmer to your computer via USB.

Many programmers also feature options for updating as the company comes out with new ways to tune your vehicle—you simply access the manufacturer’s web site and download and install the latest software to make your programmer even more effective.

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