How to Improve Gas Mileage

Maintaining a regular speed, keeping your tires inflated, and emptying your trunk will improve your gas mileage.

Mary Kurz
How to Improve Gas Mileage

Gas mileage is a game of physics. The right tricks can get science to work in your favor so you don’t have to stop so often for gas. Maintaining a regular speed, keeping your tires inflated, and emptying your trunk are all methods that will save you a bit of cash at the pumps.

Use cruise control

If you live near hills, then maintaining speed on the highway becomes a game of speedometer watching. You may find yourself slowing down when you hit hills and suddenly zooming over the speed limit on the way down. Police love waiting for speeders at the bottom of hills, too, so you may lose more than just gas money if you aren’t careful.

This is the beauty of cruise control. The system maintains a steady speed, harnessing gravity and other natural forces so you no longer have to stomp on the gas all the time. While cruise control isn’t perfect, it does help improve gas mileage. The computers built into your car are better at performing the equations needed to maintain a constant speed than even the best mathematician is behind the wheel. So it can help you shave off those pints of gas you burn when you keep the pedal to the metal.

Check your tires

Full, bouncy tires are great for mileage. They propel your car forward and make your engine work less to turn the wheels. Low tire pressure, however, has the opposite effect. Your engine has to strain against potholes and bumps in the road. It even has to work harder to overcome gravity. All of this goes without mentioning the other risks low tires present to your car.

Ever car has a sticker that gives you helpful information about things like ideal tire pressure so you don’t have to break out the owner’s manual. The sticker may be in a door jam, in the trunk, or another easily-accessible storage or passenger space. Most cars have an ideal PSI somewhere between 30 and 35 PSI.

Check your tires regularly to make sure they maintain this optimum pressure. Reviewing PSI once a month, or once every other month will also help you spot aging, leaky tires before they become a hazard. If you notice a sudden, regular decline in PSI from month to month, it’s probably time to start the search for better tires.

This cheap and easy step isn’t just great for gas mileage. It’s also imperative to your safety. It’s hard to judge how full a tire is just by looking at it. Filling tires without checking PSI could over-inflate them, which is just as dangerous. Like a balloon, under enough internal pressure, a tire can pop. If you’re on the road when it does, you could have a serious accident. Always check your PSI when you’re inflating tires, and remember to check the optimum PSI on the manufacturer’s sticker first.

Eliminate stowaways

In the age of fast food and Bluetooth technology, we practically live in our cars. Unfortunately, all the junk that once stayed in our homes has gravitated into our mobile apartments. You could have all kinds of things in your car that you’d actually forgotten you had. The trunk is a prime storage unit for everything you plan to put away later. Again, however, physics spoils our fun. The fact of the matter is, the more you have in your car, the harder your engine has to work to move it. The harder your engine runs, the worse your gas mileage becomes.

The fastest way to improve gas mileage is to gut your trunk. Literally lightening the load can dramatically reduce your stops at the pump. Although it’s light, start with the trash. This includes fast food wrappers, old event fliers and parking passes, etc. This will help you discover how much is actually in your car.

A pile of fast food bags could be hiding those free weights you forgot you borrowed or other, heavier debris. Take out seasonal safety materials, such as blankets and snow gear unless it’s the appropriate season. When it’s snowing, those items could save your life. When it’s summer and the kids are out of school, they’re a costly burden. Large packs of bottled water create the same problem.

Keeping your car free of excess weight, maintaining a constant speed while driving, and making sure your tires have enough air in them are all great ways to cut down the number of trips you make to the gas station. Treating your car well will also have the bonus effect of cutting down on costly repairs.

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