Seems we’ve been focused on fuel economy for decades. And that’s a good thing. The question then becomes how to get better gas mileage. If you want to know how to improve fuel economy, aim for the obvious in your fuel consumption habits and be willing to try what you haven’t tried. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
1: Tire inflation
It is an old saw but you would be amazed how many of us overlook this one. Tire pressure must be checked once a month. Most of us check it once a year and only if we see a bulging sidewall. Tire pressure must be maintained for fuel economy, and also for your safety. The latest thing is to inflate tires with nitrogen, which runs cooler and maintains pressure better than air. Checking tire pressure periodically when filling up is a good habit to develop.
2: Modify driving habits
We’ve heard this one before, too, yet it applies now more than ever. Drive like there’s an egg between your foot and the accelerator. Drive with a light throttle, and do your best to stay in overdrive or final drive once you get rolling.
Other fuel economies driving tips include aiming for the smoothest pavement, which requires less power. Consolidate errands and take the UPS approach to planning each journey to the letter. Are you a left foot braker? Left foot brakers tend to ride the brake pedal while accelerating. Maintain a steady throttle and make finite adjustments to power.
3: Ignition timing
Ignition timing is always the subject of debate when it comes to both power and fuel efficiency. For optimum efficiency, you want ignition timing just shy of spark knock, where you achieve peak power and efficiency. You want to allow enough room for poor fuel quality and hot/high-load conditions, yet push the ignition timing as far as you can without doing engine damage.
4: Clean air filter
This one makes a lot of people sigh, but it remains an aspect of maintenance we don’t check often enough. And if you live in the dusty and dry Southwest, air filters should be inspected frequently (monthly), when you check tire pressure.
5: Sensors inspected and replaced
Electronic engine control (EEC) sensors are the nerve endings of your fuel injection and ignition systems. Without them, your engine’s computer cannot do its job properly, if it can be done at all. Sensors include coolant temperature, intake air temperature, mass-air flow, throttle position, oxygen (O2), crank trigger, cam triggers, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), manifold air pressure, evaporative emissions canister purge, and automatic transmission. Each of these sensors provides input the electronic engine control needs to provide proper engine function. Every 100,000 miles have all electronic engine control sensors checked and, if necessary, replaced for optimum performance and fuel economy. Follow your manufacturer’s recommendation.
6: Clean fuel injectors
Oh, the endless debate addressing fuel injector cleaning and replacement. It is true fuel injectors can live indefinitely. Even the most neglected fuel injectors still perform valiantly because fuel injectors are largely self-cleaning. They rotate as they open and close, which cleans the needle and seat. And unless your automaker suggests injector cleaning, forget it. If you feel like you must replace fuel injectors, do it every 100,000 miles and sleep peacefully.
7: Own an older car? Install overdrive
If you own an older collectible car, especially one of the classic muscle cars, and desire better fuel economy for extended cruising, consider installing overdrive. There are complete turnkey manual five- and six-speed overdrive packages from Modern Driveline where you can do it all in one stop. Gear Vendors has bolt-on overdrive packages for a variety of vintage manual and automatic transmissions. These are stealthy overdrive systems you can install in a classic car and no one will know they are there but you. When in overdrive, your car will sip fuel rather than gulp it.