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While gas prices have been relatively steady as of late, it is always smart to make your car as economical as possible if your want to save money on gas. Thankfully, there are a number of techniques to make your car more fuel efficient, and few require additional expenses or special equipment. In fact, it mostly comes down to common sense, some new driving techniques, and understanding your vehicle.
Reduce weight however you can.
One of the easiest ways to make your car more fuel efficient is to make it lighter! Every extra piece of junk in your trunk makes the engine work just a little bit harder, which translates to burning more fuel every mile. Plus, if you have a front-wheel-drive vehicle, too much weight in the rear means your front wheels aren't getting the best traction possible. Take a few minutes and clean out your trunk: it may not make a huge difference unless you happen to have over 100 pounds of excess weight in the back, but every little bit helps.
Keep those tires full of air.
Under-inflated tires are obviously not ideal for a variety of reasons, and one of the biggest consequences of deflated tires is decreased fuel efficiency. Having properly inflated tires reduces drag, and can improve your vehicle's fuel economy by as much as 5mpg. Make sure you check your owner's manual to learn the optimum pressure for your model, then be vigilant to monitor your tire pressure on a regular basis. It may even suit you to pick up a portable tire inflator for your vehicle.
Keep your filters and plugs up to date.
Small, replaceable car parts like air filters and spark plugs can easily go unnoticed for long periods of time. Old, clogged up filters and worn out spark plugs can decrease your car's fuel efficiency, and even cause long-term damage to your vehicle. Replacing these items regularly will keep your engine running at optimum efficiency, and if you learn how to install them yourself, it is a very affordable process.
Use the right kind of oil.
You may be surprised to hear that many people don't bother to check what kind of oil they're putting into their vehicle. Different motor oils (like 5W-30) have different viscosities optimized for different kinds of engines. Using a thicker oil than your manufacturer recommends will cause the engine to work harder than it has to, burning more fuel than normal. Using too thin of an oil can be even more harmful, as it won't provide the necessary lubrication for your engine. Check your owner's manual before the next time you change your oil to make sure your car gets what it needs.
Check your gas cap.
Even something as simple as your gas cap can have consequences on your vehicle's fuel efficiency. After several years, the rubber seal on a gas cap can begin to wear out and become brittle, allowing oxygen into your tank. Having air in your tank means the engine will suck up some oxygen along with the fuel it needs, reducing your fuel economy. Replacing your gas cap every few years only costs around $20, and can help make your car more fuel efficient.
Check your speed.
It shouldn't surprise you to hear that high speeds aren't very fuel efficient. Every car has a particular speed that is most optimal for fuel consumption, but no car is more efficient at speeds above 60mph. Generally speaking, a moderately slow speed is optimal for most cars, so driving at or below posted speed limits will keep your car running efficiently, not to mention sparing you from speeding tickets (which, here are some tips on how to get out of a speeding ticket if you decide you don't want to be more fuel efficient).
Coast before stops.
One of the most frustrating things I see when driving is other cars that speed up rapidly, only to brake right away as soon as they reach a stop light. This combination of rapid acceleration and braking obviously has a detrimental effect not only on the car's fuel efficiency, but also on the vehicle's brake pads and other parts. Think ahead and keep your eyes on the road when you drive. If you're nearing a stop or you're about to exit the highway, take your foot off the gas and coast. By allowing your car to naturally slow down instead of roughly braking, you'll prolong the life of your car, save on fuel consumption, and the ride will be much smoother.
Cruise control is your friend.
When I first learned how to drive, I wasn't super aware of what cruise control was or how to use it. I remember one instance when I took a three hour drive on the highway without using cruise control, which used nearly half a tank of gas. Using cruise control, that same drive would have taken less than a quarter of a tank. No matter how long or short your trip is, using cruise control on the highway is—by design—the best way to make your care more fuel efficient.
Utilize advanced driving techniques.
Sometimes, to make each gallon of gas go further, you have to get a little creative with your driving. One unique way of improving your vehicle's fuel efficiency is to utilize a "pulse and glide" technique, which means to quickly accelerate to your desired speed, and then take your foot off the gas and "glide" as your car slows down. This technique is especially effective in hilly areas, where you can take advantage of gravity to increase your mileage. This technique doesn't work well in traffic, however, as you'll be forced to brake more frequently.
Upgrade to a hybrid.
If you've tried every tip and trick to make your car more fuel efficient and you still aren't getting the results you want, it might be time to upgrade your vehicle to a hybrid or even a fully-electric model. Sure, it's a pretty major cost to take on, but there's no other way to guarantee you're getting the absolute best in fuel economy. Hybrid and electric car technology has improved by leaps and bounds over the past decade, so you don't need to worry about having an inferior car. A Toyota Prius or a Tesla Motor Company vehicle will bring you great fuel savings, not to mention how much better they are for the environment.