RESIDENTIAL / vehicle fuel economy

Here is some guidance on how to get the most out of your car.  (Fuel Economy Tips courtesy of the New York Department of Conservation)

Use the following tips to save money at the pump. These small fuel savings will add up over time.

  • Avoid idling whenever you can. Idling decreases your miles per gallon. Instead of idling while waiting at drive-up banking or fast food windows, turn your car off and go inside. When waiting at a long stop light, shift into park or neutral to disengage the drive train.
  • Remember to check tire pressure weekly. For every 1-psi drop in pressure, you can expect your gas mileage to lower by 0.4%. Check and adjust the pressure as needed to maintain proper inflation and maximum efficiency. To get an accurate reading, always check tires when they are cold. In other words, check them in the morning before you start your engine.
  • Use A/C at highway speeds only. At slower city speeds, it's cheaper to use the vents and open the windows. At higher speeds, the wind resistance caused by open windows will cost you more fuel than using the air conditioner. Whenever you are using air conditioning, remember to shut it off before you get to your destination, and try to park in the shade. These factors can affect fuel economy by about 1-5%.
  • Try to anticipate stops and accelerate smoothly after stops, as braking decreases fuel economy. Leave more room between your car and the vehicle ahead of you to avoid abrupt stops. Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33% on the highway and by 5% in the city.
  • Use cruise control to keep your speed even on highway trips. Always select overdrive when driving above 50 mph. If you need the extra pep to pass someone, turn off overdrive and shift into drive. Just don't forget to switch back once you pass the other vehicle.
  • Keep up with your vehicle maintenance. A dragging brake, misalignment of tires, or a lit check engine light will have a significant impact on your fuel economy. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40%.
  • Clean the inside and outside of your car. The less weight in your car, the better your fuel economy will be. For example, there is no need to keep your golf clubs in your car all week if you only play on Tuesdays. If you have a roof rack system, remove it when you are not using it. Those extra bars and carriers interrupt the natural flow of air across your vehicle and cause more drag and more money spent on fuel.
  • Switch to synthetic fluids in your vehicle. They are more expensive, but you are replacing a petroleum-based product with one that is specifically designed for maximum efficiency. Synthetic fluids can increase your fuel economy by 8% or more. Quality synthetics have been proven to extend the life of engines and transmissions, saving you repair money.

  • What causes the winter decreases in mileage?

    Fuel economy drops during cold weather. We pay the price not only at the pump but indirectly with increased emissions and their effect on the environment.

    Winter fuel economy drops predominately due to the increased friction caused by the thickening of the fluids that lubricate a car's engine and drive train. Also, a vehicle's tires have increased rolling resistance when extremely cold because the rubber is stiffer, and air pressure drops significantly as temperatures get colder. The shorter, colder days also lead to more fuel being used to run electronics such as headlights and heaters.

    Additionally, fuel burns less efficiently until the engine gets up to its optimum operating temperature. This is because fuels don't evaporate fully in the cold weather, resulting in incomplete combustion, using more fuel, and potentially causing engine problems.
  • What can we do to maximize fuel economy during winter?

  • Warm up your vehicle by driving it. There is no benefit to letting your car warm up more than 30 seconds before you drive off. It only wastes fuel and releases needless greenhouse gases. Research shows that only 30 seconds of idling is needed to circulate the engine oil on cold days. Avoid driving at high speeds for the first three miles of your trip when the temperature is below zero to avoid engine wear.
  • When running errands, always go to the farthest destination first. This will warm up the engine and make it more efficient for your other stops during the day.
  • Keep your vehicle in a garage where it is warmer, thus reducing the time to achieve optimal operating temperatures.
  • Clean snow and ice off before you hit the road to make your car lighter and more aerodynamic. Don't run the engine to clear the windows of ice-use an ice scraper to save fuel.
  • Allow more time for travel on slippery winter roads. Speeding will decrease your fuel economy, since most vehicles achieve maximum efficiency at about 60 mph. A few miles per hour decrease in speed will significantly increase fuel economy and might help you avoid accidents.

    Additional tips to keep the air clean in winter:
  • Keep your gas tank full on cold nights. A half-empty tank will need fuel additives to dry up water condensation. These fuel additives often contain volatile compounds which, if spilled, evaporate and cause air pollution.