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A Guide to Getting the Best MPG for Your Automobile

Our culture is centered around our passion for our automobiles. Everywhere you look, the signs are obvious. Restaurants and businesses built around a drive-through lane to accommodate vehicles, endless seas of parking lots adjacent to roads and highways, and the interstate highway system. We spend a lot of time in our vehicles, and some people even use them as mobile offices or “homes away from home”. With the time and money invested into this portion of our lifestyle, it is important to be as knowledgeable about your car as possible.

One of the largest recurring expenses associated with automobiles is the fuel that your car runs on. Whether it is ethanol, electricity, gasoline or diesel fuel, your car needs some sort of fuel to move itself. What follows here is a guide to help you learn how to get the most mileage out of your fuel. Since cars require fuel so frequently, every little bit helps. There are little things that can be tweaked or adjusted to help your car use its gas more efficiently, and there are also some bigger things that can be done to further improve your gas mileage.

Miles Per Gallon (MPG)

It is wise to begin with an understanding of the definition of MPG rate. Quite simply, this is the amount of mileage that your car can travel using one gallon of fuel. Figuring out your MPG takes a quick calculation which can be done right at the pump. It is important to know where the MPG range of your vehicle should be according to the manufacturer. This way you can be alerted early to any problems that may be occurring if your actual MPG differs from your normal MPG. Figuring out your MPG is a simple process: first, fill up your tank, second, reset your trip odometer, third, drive as you normally would for the remainder of your fuel supply. Once it is time to get gas again, fill up your tank completely. Now you know how many miles that same amount of fuel just took you, which will be displayed on the trip odometer. Divide the miles traveled by the gallons you just put back in the car and presto! You now have an accurate MPG for your car.

Car Maintenance

Mechanically, there are a lot of factors that go into making your car drive. These same factors can also cause your MPG to diminish if they are not properly attended to. Some of these you may not even think affect your MPG, but they surely do.

  • Tire Inflation: Under or over-inflated tires do more than damage the tires themselves. Improperly filled tires can ruin your gas mileage. Inflate the tires to your vehicle manufacturer's recommended air pressure, regardless of what the tire itself says. More tire maintenance information.

  • Engine Tune-up: There are many ways in which an engine can be tuned for better performance and MPG. Check the air filter to ensure it is not clogged or overly dirty. A clogged air filter will reduce the efficiency of the engine, causing more fuel to be wasted. Also, your engine should be tuned-up regularly in common areas such as spark plugs and wires.

  • Motor Oil (PDF): Believe it or not, using the wrong grade of motor oil in your engine will reduce MPG. According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), using the manufacturer's recommended oil can improve your MPG.


Driving Methods

There also exist ways you can change your driving habits to improve your gas mileage. No single driving tweak is going to give you a big change in MPG. However, if you can practice a few or all of these methods routinely, the MPG savings will add up. The flatter the surface you are driving on, the less power your engine needs to move the vehicle. In this regard, you can improve your gas mileage by avoiding hills (if possible). Also, when you notice that a traffic light up ahead has turned red, slow down gradually instead of continuing at your current speed and then braking to a stop. This will prevent you from having to provide engine power to start the vehicle rolling again from a stop (which consumes more gasoline). Also, just by using the correct octane of fuel for your vehicle you can improve your MPG.

Speed is also a factor in your gas mileage. Your car will attain the maximum MPG when cruising between 40 and 60 miles per hour. This is due to your car's momentum assisting the vehicle in carrying itself forward. Even lower speeds below 40 miles per hour will not give you a very good MPG rate. A good estimation you can use is that for every 5 miles an hour over 60, your MPG rate will decrease by between 7 and 23%. Aerodynamics also have a role to play in gas mileage. Much as the operating efficiency of your engine affects mileage, so too will the amount of drag created by your vehicle. Carrying too much weight, not using cruise control, and adding more drag by having roof racks or other items that catch the wind will decrease your MPG.

Other Methods of Conservation

Okay, so you have maintained your car as you should, and you have even changed some driving habits to increase your MPG. Is there anything else that can be done? Yes, there is. While carpooling may not increase your individual MPG rate, it will save fuel for you and those you carpool with. Also, the practice of combining stops when you travel around to run errands will also increase fuel saving. For example, if you need to drive into town to mail a package, but know that you have a doctor's appointment tomorrow in the same town, combine them both on the same day. Also, you can use a gas price monitoring website to find the cheapest reported gas price in the area you will be driving in.

There are many different ways and combinations of methods that you can use to save fuel and increase your MPG. You can use one or all of these proven methods to save fuel and money. Depending on your specific vehicle and driving habits, your results will vary. Beware of items being sold commericially that are purported to improve gas mileage. There have been few proven to have worked, and even those had a very small effect on gas mileage. Below are some links to pages with more information about saving fuel, improving gas mileage, preventing pollution, and saving money.

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