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With the price of gasoline remaining so variable, many drivers look for ways to get the best gas mileage possible for their cars. While hopes for a mythical 200 mpg (321.8 kph) fuel additive or carburetor may remain on hold, there are a number of things drivers can do to get the most out of their car’s engines and fuel supply. Getting better mileage is generally a combination of changing your driving habits and maintaining proper maintenance for the car. No single procedure or technique offers a miraculous leap in gas mileage, but when used in combination, the savings in fuel costs can be significant.
Driving responsibly is a good first step. Aggressive driving tactics, such as tailgating, constant lane changing, peeling out, and racing through yellow lights, require the driver to accelerate unnecessarily or recklessly. This means gas that should have moved the car forward is now being wasted on sudden starts and stops. Learn to go with the flow of traffic and anticipate situations that may require you to stop. By observing the traffic lights and avoiding red light stops, you can use less gas since the few stops a car has to make, the better the mileage will be.
Another way to improve gas mileage is to avoid speeding. Cars are designed to reach maximum fuel efficiency at speeds below the current legal limits in most places, so even keeping up with fast-moving traffic can mean a significant loss. Even if it means being passed by other drivers or receiving dirty looks, driving slower will definitely improve the car’s handling and fuel efficiency.
Using a car’s cruise control setting should improve your mileage as well, as long as the road is level and not congested with traffic. Cruise control devices are not as prone to pump the accelerator too often to maintain speed as the driver might be. The engine may not need all of that extra fuel in order to provide sufficient power, so using cruise control on long stretches of highway should increase your gas mileage by at least 25%. If the road is located in a mountainous region, however, using cruise control may be problematic. Many systems tend to use far more fuel when climbing hills, since the car must overcome the effects of gravity as well as maintain a preset speed.
You should also make sure that the car itself is properly maintained. Changing out a dirty air filter, for example, should noticeably improve an engine’s efficiency. A thorough tune-up should also improve the mileage, especially if fouled spark plugs are replaced and serious problems, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, are addressed. Switching to a higher quality synthetic oil with anti-friction additives can also save gas. Even using a standard oil with a different weight can help an engine work more efficiently.
Maintaining proper tire inflation can also improve gas mileage, since under-inflated tires create additional drag for the engine to overcome. Over-inflation of a car’s tires is no solution, however, since handling may be affected. Some experts suggest keeping air conditioner usage to a minimum, since the compressor puts an extra strain on the engine. Others say the improvement does not outweigh the benefits of comfort. Rolling down the windows to compensate can also create additional drag, so this may be one tip which should be taken with a grain of salt. If the vehicle in question is a pickup truck, however, investing in a tailgate net should improve mileage by allowing air to flow freely instead of becoming trapped by the closed tailgate.
There are literally dozens of other ways to improve gas mileage, but perhaps the best thing you can do is compare the average mileage ratings of various cars and purchase the model with the best overall balance between size and fuel efficiency. Hybrid electric/gas cars offer significant improvements in overall savings. Cars that use alternative fuels are also attractive options, as long as the fuels they require are readily available. Otherwise, it may be best to find the lightest, most fuel-efficient vehicle that suits your driving needs and practice driving safely.