Easy Ways To Improve Gas Mileage

Simple effective measures for improving fuel economy can be taken without being a mechanical genius.

No matter what type of car or truck you drive, there are a few relatively simple things you can do to improve your gas mileage. These are not costly, expensive or complicated measures such as changing the computer chips or fuel delivery systems in your vehicle. The keys are something as simple as reducing weight and friction. The greater than either, or both, of these two characteristics are in your vehicle, the more gasoline you will use.

First let's look at the weight factor. Without taking a cutting torch to your vehicle, or drilling lightening holes in the body and chassis, you can reduce the weight. There are two types of weight to consider - sprung and un-sprung weight. Sprung weight is exactly what it sounds like - the weight born by the vehicle's suspension. That includes the body, chassis, motor, interior, and trunk (or bed in a pickup). Reductions in this type of weight are not easy to come by; but if you are the "pack rat" type that carries everything you might possibly ever need in your vehicle, then taking a close look at all of that dead weight you are carrying around and taking steps to reduce it will help some. Also, the old adage that a clean car runs better has some basis in truth - not from any gains in aerodynamics of a clean body, but in less weight of the junk you are hauling around. Cleaning the chassis, motor and undercarriage with a pressure washer periodically will also help. Built up mud, tar and road grime on the undercarriage, motor and chassis add much more weight to the car than the little bit of dirt you wash off the body. However, even relatively large weight reductions in sprung weight will not give you the gas savings that a small reduction in un-sprung weight will.

Un-sprung weight includes the weight of the axles, wheels and tires. There isn't much you can do about the axle weights, but the wheels and tires are a different matter. If you are using oversized, extra-wide tires and wheels, then you are paying a price for them in reduced gas mileage. In this area, a relatively small weight reduction can produce significant gains in gas mileage. After market custom wheels are not necessarily bad. Many of them are made of lighter materials than factory wheels and adding a set of custom wheels can be an advantage as long as they are lighter and not much wider than factory stock wheels. Tires, too, should be of the same size as factory stock, or at most one size larger, and no wider than 70 series. Not only will reductions in un-sprung weight give you increased gas mileage, but you should notice a performance improvement as well.



Friction is the second major enemy of good gasoline mileage. Increase friction and you increase the amount of energy required to achieve the same result. That includes internal friction in the motor, friction of the moving components of the drive train and friction (or traction) between the tires and the road. Internal motor friction is necessary to a point to achieve compression of the gasoline / air mixture above the pistons, but many synthetic oils and teflon based oil additives will reduce that friction while still maintaining enough to achieve compression. This will result in increased performance and gas mileage. Whatever oil or additive you use, frequent and regular changes (including oil filter) will help keep friction minimized. Changing your oil every 3000 to 5000 miles will not only help in reducing friction, but you will get longer life from your motor.

Friction in the drive train components will also rob power and increase gas consumption. The aforementioned periodic pressure washing of the chassis and undercarriage will help in this respect too. If grit and grime is left to accumulate, it can work its way into bearing surfaces creating friction and eventually destroying the bearings

The friction between the tires and road is an area that improvements can easily be made. Not only do oversized, ultra-wide tires add un-sprung weight, they create more friction. Friction in this area, called traction also, is necessary, but unless you are pushing your car to the limits of traction in sharp hair-pin turns you probably don't NEED those 50 and 60 series tires that look so cool. As in the weight factor, 70 series of no more than one size over factory stock is the better way to go for fuel economy. Whatever size of tire you use, maintaining correct air pressure is important to good fuel economy and tire life. The lower the air pressure, the better the traction (or higher the friction) to a point. Air pressure that is too low will cause premature wear on the outside edges of the tires and weaken sidewalls. Air pressure too high can make the car skittish to steer (traction too low) and create premature wear in the center of the tread. The best option is to maintain tires at the upper end of the recommended pressure range noted on the sidewall of the tire.

In addition to improvement in your gas mileage from weight and friction reductions, there are some simple measures in the fuel delivery and exhaust systems that will help. Maintenance is the key to the simple and inexpensive measure that you can utilize. Regular changing or cleaning of air and fuel filters will make your car run better and more efficiently. Efficiency equates to improved fuel economy. Also, if a replacement of the muffler is needed, consider a high performance, low back pressure type. These will give you a performance gain, but also have the added benefit of increased fuel economy. Dependent, of course, on how you utilize that extra horsepower. Your driving style has a lot to do with your fuel economy, but however you drive, these simple measures will help improve your gas mileage and the life of your vehicle.

© High Speed Ventures 2011