Burning gas is just like burning money. You fill up your tank, fork over some cash or your credit card, burn the gas in your engine and then repeat the entire process.
Meanwhile, not only are you spending, and maybe even wasting money, but the gas you burn releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. All that CO2 build-up is causing climate change, and we know what a serious problem that’s become (extreme storms, drought, poison ivy, etc.).
Still, you need to get to where you have to go. How can you do that and actually use less gas? We’ve partnered with Halfords, a UK-based automotive services company, to bring you 12 of the best ways to improve the gas mileage of your vehicle, reduce its environmental impact, and use less gas every day. Here you go!
How to Use Less Gas Every Day
⇒ Don’t be a show off, a hot head, or a jack rabbit like the guy in the picture. In other words, drive the speed limit (or the speed you need to drive to stay in traffic safely). Avoid quick starts and stops, use cruise control to maintain an even speed, and don’t tail gate. Being in a hurry is a prescription for wasting gas (and possibly an accident).
⇒ Check the tire pressure on your tires at least every season. You can improve gas mileage by around 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Don’t know what that is? Check your driver’s manual, or the label on the inside of your front seat door jamb. Tire pressure responds to outdoor temperatures, so make sure to check the pressure when the weather turns cold or hot. Checking the pressure will also tell you whether you have a slow leak and need a repair.
Need a tire pressure gauge? They’re cheap to buy and easy to use. Here are a variety of options.
⇒ Change the oil based on the recommendation of the manufacturer. Changing oil after 3,000 miles used to be standard, but really, follow the directions in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. It might be 3,000 miles, but it’s more likely 5,000 or even 7,500. The key is to change the oil when it’s needed to keep the oil running smoothly and efficiently. Here’s what cars.com recommends.
Another good tip: Halfords recommends checking the amount of oil you have in your engine. Too little oil can reduce the life of the engine and eventually require expensive repairs if piston walls get scratched, valves rub down and oil gets into the combustion chamber. In a recent survey they conducted, the company found that 25% of drivers in the UK don’t check to see whether their car’s oil levels are adequate.
⇒ Get a regular tune up. Keeping the engine and related parts (like spark plugs) in good working order can improve your gas mileage by an average of 4.1 percent. While the car is getting a tune up, check the air filters to see if they need to be replaced, another action that can save you money and improve fuel efficiency so you will use less gas every day.
⇒ Don’t top off the gas tank. Many drivers like to pump a little bit more gas into their tank even after the automatic shut-off kicks in. Don’t do it. The U.S EPA says that this top layer of gas just evaporates and adds to smog rather than get you any extra miles per gallon.
⇒ Don’t idle. “Idling” is another way to say “wasting gas.” For almost all vehicles, if you’re going to be waiting anywhere for longer than 30 seconds, just turn off your ignition. If possible, skip drive-throughs, like banks, cleaners, stores, and fast food restaurants, especially if there’s a long line of vehicles ahead of you.
⇒ Take the shortest, most direct route and avoid rush hour if possible. Use Google Maps, Waze, Mapquest, or other mobile tools to help identify the shortest way to get to your destination and avoid traffic jams that could have you sitting on the highway for hours just burning gas.
⇒ Car pool, use mass transit, telecommute, and combine trips. The best way to use less gas every day is to drive less. Period. Can you telecommute a couple of days a week? Carpool with other friends or colleagues? Take the bus or the subway? Combine trips so that you get all your errands done on one outing?
Every mile or kilometer you don’t drive is another way to keep gas money in your pocket rather than doling it out to the pump.
⇒ Keep the roof rack clear. Unless you’re going on a vacation or are moving big items, keep your roof rack empty. Piling things on top of your car creates aerodynamic drag and can affect fuel economy. Keep it tidy up there.
⇒ Lighten the load in the trunk or boot of the car. Carrying an extra 110 lb (50 kg) in your car can increase your fuel bill by 2%.
⇒ Use sun reflectors to keep the car cooler inside. On hot days, especially if your car’s interior is black, it can get extremely hot in the vehicle. Many drivers immediately want to crank up the air conditioning, which is an energy hog.
Instead, use sun reflectors to lower internal temperatures. Keep a window cracked so air can circulate. When you get in the car, leave the doors open for a couple of minutes to let hot air escape.
There are lots of sun reflectors to choose from. You can get an idea of your options here.
⇒ Turn on the AC when driving in hot temperatures at high speeds. It can be fun to drive with the windows down, but open windows decrease a vehicle’s aerodynamics at higher speeds. If you’re driving around town, open windows are fine. At higher speeds, use the AC.
NOTE: Partners like Halfords enable us to bring you expert content at no cost to you. Our editorial opinions remain our own.