About a month ago, I wrote an article about ways to increase gas mileage. I mentioned three basic techniques that could be followed by any driver at minimal cost: removing excess weight from the car, properly inflating the tires, and adopting a conservative driving style (which is to say, driving slowly and steadily).
Since then, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to put these techniques to the test.
Bottom Line: My 2002 Mercury Mountaineer with 2 Wheel Drive, 5 Speed Automatic Transmission, and a Flex Fuel 4.0 Liter V-6 will consistently get 24-25 MPG highway, driving 60 to 65 miles per hour.
Compare that to the EPA Highway Estimate for my car: 21 MPG.
Of course, there was at least one trip that wasn’t quite as good. I only got 22 MPG driving 100 miles to do some work on a rental property…with two ladders strapped to the roof rack. Adding the wind resistance from a 20 ft aluminum ladder and a 6 foot step ladder reduced our gas mileage by 10%.
The lesson? Don’t add that drag (unless, of course, you’re going to be spending the day on a roof.)
Even hauling shingles, tools and ladders I managed to beat that EPA estimate by accelerating slowly and driving a steady 60 MPH. Keeping below the 70 mile per hour speed limit kept the loss in mileage reasonable.
I can’t always drive as slowly as I’d like. Traffic conditions don’t always allow you to safely drive below the speed limit, and I’ll speed up to avoid being in danger. Most of the time, I can drive the speed I want to go without being unsafe, so I do. Getting somewhere fast just isn’t as important to me as getting somewhere safely and at a reasonable cost. Since I keep that in mind most of the time, it’s not too difficult for me to drive slower.
The Tricks to Driving Slowly
Driving slowly isn’t natural for a lot of people, but driving faster often doesn’t save you that much time. On a long trip of several hours, driving faster can shave some time off your trip. For most driving, though, it doesn’t save much time. For the average driver, pretending you’re on the set of The
Dukes of Hazzard Fast and the Furious just causes you to wear out your tires faster and puts you at higher risk for accidents and tickets.
Plus, even at $2 per gallon, driving slowly nets me over $150 per year in gas savings alone. That moves up to $228 if prices increase back to $3/gallon.
When you consider the savings in gas mileage, reduced wear and tear on your car and tires, and increased risk of tickets and accidents, slowing down your driving makes good sense. You just have to retrain yourself to make your goal about something other than being the fastest car to the next stoplight.
Make your driving about getting the best mileage instead, and making the fewest trips to the gas station.
If you have a newer car that tells you whether or not you are driving economically, make a game of keeping the eco light on as long as possible. That will help train you to drive in ways that maximize your gas mileage. If you don’t have that eco light, you can still gamify your gas mileage. What’s the best gas mileage you can get in your car? Was it better than your last tank? How many more miles can you get on your tank of gas?
Give it a try. You’ll be pulling past the gas station again while all the jackrabbits are tanking up.
Another trick to helping you with driving slowly is setting the mood. I like to listen to classical music or light jazz while I drive, to keep my mood calm and peaceful. Emily likes to listen to audiobooks. While it can be fun to rock out as you roar down the highway, try listening to something that relaxes you. When you are relaxed in the car and not feeling stressed, you’re more likely to use the driving techniques that save you money: easing back on the accelerator, careful braking, and slower starts.
Our Other Car
Our 2014 Honda Pilot AWD has a 3.5 liter V6. The V-6 runs a 0-20 weight synthetic motor oil. The Pilot has recently turned 25,000 miles on the odometer, so I think we can safely assume it’s broken in.
We have 2 trip odometers on the Pilot. The A odometer gets reset every time the gas tank is filled. The B odometer is reset less frequently and currently shows about 5000 miles, with a MPG reading of 20.0. That means our combined city/highway gas mileage for the last 5000 miles is about the same as the Mountaineer’s.
That may be about the best I can expect from a 4500 pound vehicle, given a reasonable driving style.
Emily doesn’t drive as conservatively as I do, but she’s working on it. Driving slowly doesn’t come naturally to her. She sees the value of eking out some extra mileage and reducing the wear and tear on her car, but her goal is to drive more safely. Since a more conservative driving style accomplishes all of those goals, she’s adjusted her driving quite a bit around town. On the highway, I’m still trying to convince her that she doesn’t have to go 70 just because that’s the speed limit.
A New Idea To Increase My Mileage
The next step in my quest for maxing out my gas mileage is a new idea. I got a can of CRC aerosol spray for Mass Air Flow Sensors. The Mass Air flow sensor measures the amount of air flowing into the engine. After your car has some mileage on it, the sensors get dirty and don’t accurately measure the air going into the engine. This changes the gas mixture, so you can use more gas.
You can change the mass air flow sensor, and a new one costs around $100. The cleaning spray is a bit cheaper around $5-$7. Trying the spray first seems like a good idea.
With $2 per gallon gasoline and driving about 10,000 miles per year, we spend about $1000 per vehicle on gas. Our goal next year will be for a further 10% reduction in gas expenditures, or about $200. I’ll continue to report our progress as we try new things to tweak gas mileage.
In the meantime, remember that the tortoise got to the finish line first. Stay slow, stay safe, and save money.
What do you think of the suggestions? Are you consciously thinking about gas consumption as you drive? Would you be willing to change your driving style to save money?