10 Ways To Boost Your MPG

ForbesAutos interviewed Wayne Gerdes, a “hypermiler” who can squeeze 84 miles per gallon out of a regular Ford Ranger pickup truck, or 180.1 mpg from a hybrid electric Honda Insight. Here are 10 of his techniques for achieving startling fuel economy:

10. Turn off the A/C
9. Install a scangauge
8. When pulling into a parking lot, try to coast up to the highest point in the lot, so then you can coast out upon exit
7. If you’re idling over 10 seconds, turn off the engine
6. Driving over the speed limit increases wind resistance, consuming more fuel
5. Rather than trying to maintain a constant speed, focus on maintaing a constant engine load
4. Drive like you have no brakes; coast whenever possible and avoid needless braking
3. Change your air filter yearly
2. Use the lowest weight oil recommended for your car
1. Inflate tires to maximum pressure

We also covered some of Wayne’s more unorthodox methods in a previous post, “Potentially Insane Ways To Increase Your Fuel Efficiency.”

The Pursuit of Hypermileage [ForbesAutos]
(Photo: Chris Strong)

Comments

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  1. MexiFinn says:

    I read about this guy. His theories are interesting, but he drives like an ass. He does stuff like straddle lanes (so he doesn’t get stuck in the grooves on old pavement) and generally doesn’t give a crap about anyone else on the road so that he can boost his MPG by a fraction.

  2. Sherryness says:

    Those tactics may improve mileage, but many of them are not safe.

  3. Hanke says:

    It’s more than a fraction, but his driving is incredibly dangerous. I mean, drafting a semi at 60? Driving in two lanes, shutting off the engine at highway speed to ‘coast’ around curves, depending on the TURN to slow him down?

    Not to mention, in most modern cars, if you lose engin power, you lose power brakes and power steering, which significantly decreases your ability to make an emergency manuver.

  4. joeblevins says:

    How arbitrary is the statement that driving over the speed limit increases wind resistance. So if the speed limit is 75, there is no increase until 75mph? But if in a neighborhood the wind resistance increases about 25mph?

    Ugh. Yeah, asses like this deserve 4-5 punches in the face.

    Cute if you can increase your milage, but when you begin blocking out other drivers just so you can brag about your numbers.. Well, you get a keying..

  5. mopar_man says:

    #10 is only true in town. On the highway, driving with the windows open usually lowers your MPG (wind resistance). #7 will save you only a fraction on MPG. In general, don’t drive your car like you stole it and you’ll get decent MPG.

  6. BartMack says:

    My theory is there’s more to life than mpg.

  7. horseblind says:

    I think most of what Mr Gerdes does can be used with a bit of common sense applied. You don’t have to drive like an ass to apply much of his advice. Like a gun or knife, in the hands of the many that exhibit no common sense these tips could be disatrous. Don’t be that guy.

  8. MameDennis says:

    There are already too many people driving like they have no brakes.

  9. jmuskratt says:

    You use 0 gallons of gas when you’ve been rear-ended by a semi doing a wind-resisting-75 after you’ve been “acting like you don’t have brakes.”

  10. matt1978 says:

    Read the comments in the previous post, then decide if what you’re saying is fresh or interesting. If not, please stop typing.

    We all realize he’s nutty. That’s why the previous post had “insane” in the title.

  11. PlanetExpressdelivery says:

    @joeblevins:

    That’s the same thing I was thinking. Wind resistance is dependent on wind speed and direction with respect to the motion of the vehicle. An arbitrary speed limit has nothing to do in an argument about wind resistance.

  12. Falconfire says:

    The AC thing has been constantly disproved. The lose of mileage from having a window open vs using the AC is practically the same.

  13. faust1200 says:

    Ya this guy is totally nuts. I think he would pull his car around like a rickshaw if he could.

  14. kirby822 says:

    @Falconfire: From the previous post on the guy, he doesn’t drive with the windows down. A/C off, windows up.

  15. enm4r says:

    Christian Bale lived on a can of tuna and an apple a day to prepare for The Machinist. NEW DIET ALERT!!!

    Who cares about this guy, he’s insane, unsafe, and a complete asshole on the road. The guy should be taken off the road, then he wont even have to buy gas.

  16. forever_knight says:

    @mopar_man: actually, it depends on your speed. i believe mythbusters showed that up to 55mph, windows open = saves gas. over that speed the resulting drag uses more gas than it saves.

  17. Instigator says:

    He obviously doesn’t live in Florida, with its triple-digit summer temperatures. What a douche!

  18. wesrubix says:

    It’s also important to note, it’s not wind resistance that goes up, it’s the resulting drag of the car.

    AC does make your engine work harder, but if you have an efficient and strong engine, you won’t notice. The real catch here is for older cars (like my girlfriend’s Altima): you really notice the diff with AC on and off.

    Lastly, filling your tires to maximum pressure is a bad idea: the tires are more likely to blow out at maximum pressure. The flexibility is what allows for effective traction at varying speeds and maneuvers (e.g. turning causes inner tires to press down and get more grip). Instead, you should regularly check the tire pressure, say once a month or two, and fill them to the recommended pressure inside the driver’s door frame.

  19. “Rather than trying to maintain a constant speed, focus on maintaing a constant engine load”

    I hate these people on the freeway. I always want to rear end them on principle.

  20. danms6 says:

    Adding to all of the fine points mentioned above, the repair costs resulting from shutting off the engine every time you come to a stop light will far outweigh the pennies saved in gas.

  21. bonzombiekitty says:

    #10 – Depends on the meaning of this and the type of car. Turn off the ac and just use the vents? Then yeah. Turn off the Ac and open a window? What type of car? Can the air easily flow back out? city or highway driving?

    #9 – Yep. Nice to get feedback.

    #8 – Negligible amount of gas saved

    #7 – Negligible amount of gas saved.

    #6 – Right in theory but not literally. 55 MPH used to be the most efficient speed to drive at and part of the reason the speed limit on most highways is/was that. Not sure if that still applies to modern cars since they’re shaped different.

    #5 – Yep.

    #4 – Yep. Pay attention to the road ahead. If you see traffic slowing ahead, instead of keeping your foot on the gas and breaking when you get to the slowed cars, take your foot of the gas well ahead of time and let the car naturally slow down. Similar thing for curves. You want to avoid driving like you’re in a city as much as possible.

    #3 – yep.

    #2 – I guess.

    #1 – Depends. Could be dangerous. Too much inflation makes you lose grip on the road.

  22. MalFuller says:

    Here’s the real number one way to save gas.

    #1. Remove key from ignition.

  23. Delmarc says:

    Why not just walk to the supermarket and put all the bags in a cart… and walk home… that would DEF boost your MPG…

  24. celer says:

    #1 .. I have a scan gauge on my Subaru STI, the tool itself is fantastic, it really helped me see how the car consumed fuel, so I noticed things like 70mph is the sweet spot on the highway, a little lower or higher and the car is less efficient.

    That being said I realize that worrying about fuel mileage in sports car is silly most of the time, but on highway trips it is worth it.

  25. Amry says:

    I dunno…I believe the AC thing. I haven’t had AC in my 94 Civic for about 5 years now. The car’s in terrible shape, yet I get 30+ MPG driving in town (minimal or no highway driving)! It has to be the AC thing – there is no way this thing is that efficient.

  26. AskCars says:

    I’ve heard and seen this guy on so many outlets. At least the Chicago Tribune had a police officer sidebar that said which of his methods were illegal. You should never have your car in neutral while driving on a public road. You’re putting yourself and others in danger.

    You should not be turning off your engine in traffic either. This guy would probably be shot if he drove in some major cities for holding up traffic when lights turn.

    As others have said, some cars get optimum fuel economy on the highway at higher speeds than the speed limit.

    You should always avoid being in situations when you have to brake needlessly. That’s the number one rule of commuting. Of course no one follows that.

  27. DashTheHand says:

    I have to agree that although this guy gets good MPG, he drives like a fucking asshole. Hes the kind of person that gets people killed because hes more worried about saving a couple dollars than driving safely. Nothing would make me happier than to see his license taken away from him so he could get the ultimate MPG of zero gallons used on a bicycle.

  28. kahri says:

    This guy must be a horrible tipper. Seriously, If you’re spending that much time & energy worrying about your mpg, then consider public transportation. Don’t endanger the public for your frugal antics.
    Oh and @matt1978: Your comment was neither fresh nor interesting. I type when I want, like you.

  29. JesusKong says:

    I’ve never heard of #9 the scangauge. I just checked out the website and it looks really interestingbut I’m curious if anyone’s used one and thinks it’s worthwhile and cost saving.

  30. killavanilla says:

    I must admit that this guy pulls impressive numbers.
    One day, while pulling out of the parking garage at work, I switched off the engine.
    When I tried to turn, the powersteering was off. I almost hit another car before I managed to stop.
    On the highway, that’s just dangerous…..
    Here’s my list of ways to up your MPG:
    1) Accelerate slower
    2) Don’t ride the brake
    3) Keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure – check this at least once a week
    4) Don’t drive 90 miles an hour. Your car is more efficient at 60-75mph
    5) Don’t let your car idle for more than a minute or so.
    6) try to avoid high traffic times. If your highway is jammed when you leave work, try to find another way home (using streets instead, for instance)
    7) Check your oil.
    8) Keep your car clean.
    9) Fix any damage to your car as soon as possible.
    Do all that, and I guarantee you’ll get better fuel economy.

  31. killavanilla says:

    @kahri:
    Don’t get it twisted…
    He’s a ‘hypermiler’, not a cheap ass.
    There is a difference. I believe his point is that you can get better economy and efficiency. It’s not about the cash. He drives an uplevel Accord with some extra bells and whistles. It’s more about the pride of being able to get great fuel economy than anything else.
    Hypermilers are a strange breed. Instead of 0-60 times and quarter miles, they measure their skills by how far they can push their MPG’s…

  32. forever_knight says:

    @killavanilla: what mpg does your list get you? this guy gets 80-180mpg.

  33. Canadian Impostor says:

    @bonzombiekitty: 55 MPH used to be the most efficient speed to drive at

    55mph used to be a comfortable balance based on how long it would take to cover large distances, how safe cars were at those speeds at the time (mechanical concerns, human reaction times, etc.) and efficiency based on air resistance.

    Air resistance is proportional to the square of the speed you’re travelling at, meaning no matter what speed you’re going, going slower will decrease the drag force on the front of your car.

    If time wasn’t a factor, we would make cars efficient for driving us places at 5mph, since there would be negligable drag force.

    Long story short is, a lot of people think 55mph is somehow the most efficient speed to drive at. It’s not. It seems to make sense since you get better mileage on the highway, but that’s because you’re not stopping often. If you had an empty highway and drove 10mph on it, you’d get better mileage than if you drove 55.

  34. Hawkins says:

    Perhaps we should bear in mind that Mr. Gerdes is focused on miles per gallon, as opposed to cost or safety.

    Yes, his methods increase wear on the engine and tires, not to mention being sociopathic. But none of that is the point. The point is to get the highest MPG at any cost.

    I’m surprised that he doesn’t use a big ol’ spinnaker for city driving on windy days.

  35. Bobly says:

    WIND RESISTANCE:

    Generally speaking, as your speed doubles, your wind resistance quadruples, so yeah, the faster you go, the more fuel you consume.

    Source: Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 theory lessons ;)

  36. mentir says:

    I like to think that any improvement he makes to his own MPG is offset by everybody (myself included) who floors it around him going uphill. But I do agree with shutting off your engine if idling over ten seconds but only if you are parked and waiting for somebody.

  37. mac-phisto says:

    i have a standard, so coasting for me is pretty simple. downhill is usually in neutral where my car idles at 500-750 rpms.

    here’s something i’ve been pondering & i can’t seem to find an answer to it: on a manual transmission, is it more fuel-efficient to rev a lower gear to a higher rpm (where it strains on the high end), or upshift into a higher gear at a lower rpm (where it strains on the low end)?

    case in point: around 45 mph, i can sit in 3rd at about 3200rpm, or i can upshift to 4th at about 2000rpm. the ideal cruise window is 2200-2800rpm. there’s noticeable engine strain above 3000rpm & below 2000rpm.

    i would assume that a higher revving engine burns more fuel, but wouldn’t an engine revving too low also burn fuel less efficiently, thereby also requiring more fuel to produce less power?

    which is more efficient? anyone know?

  38. killavanilla says:

    @forever_knight:
    Don’t be silly – he doesn’t get 80-180 mpg.
    He gets 50-75. But in doing so, he flaunts his expertise in his driving methods. Turning off your car on the highway isn’t a good idea for most of us.
    And for the record, my MPG went from around 20 to around 26-28. Mostly city driving in a 4 cylinder honda accord.
    I’m not a hypermiler either, so comparing what this guy gets to me is a waste of time.
    I was merely offering some less dangerous, more common sense suggestions.

  39. killavanilla says:

    For the record, the 55 mile and hour speed limit wasn’t put in place for fuel economy, it was put in place for ‘safety’.

  40. TehRev says:

    this guy would totally get a tire slashing if he pulled some of those maneuvers around here.

  41. killavanilla says:

    @forever_knight:
    And even Wayne will tell you that he doesn’t recommend other people do what he does all the time. He is an expert with loads of experience. Give the keys to a 16 year old and tell him to do this stuff and his MPG will go way up when he’s dead.

  42. aka Cat says:

    I have one of those Scanguages. It’s a fun gadget to have, and moderately useful.

    It confirmed that, for my car, the mpg difference between driving 65mph and 75mph on the Interstate was negligible, so I don’t feel bad about speeding. Making sure my tires aren’t under-inflated had a bigger impact.

    Either it or my odometer is off by a little bit, but since I only compare the scanguage’s numbers against itself, it doesn’t matter.

  43. edrift101 says:

    I like #4: Drive like you have no brakes; coast whenever possible and avoid needless braking.

    Going to start practicing my powersliding techniques over lunch. :)

  44. weazel says:

    When this dude causes an accident, I so hope the opposing attorneys have all this stuff in their evidence files. If I were a lawyer, I’d print this out and just wait for the guy to be named in a reckless driving suit.

  45. squidbrain says:

    Your primary focus as you drive should be that YOU HAVE MY LIFE AND YOURS IN YOUR HANDS DINGBAT!!!

    That felt good.

  46. sumocat says:

    In terms of practicality while driving, I think #4 and #5 are the most useful yet least practiced by the average driver. I hate cruise control for the exact reason that it is based on speed with no consideration for load, which is terribly wasteful on hilly roads, and I do drive under the no-brake method because accelerating toward stop lights and braking while going uphill should rarely be necessary.

  47. kahri says:

    @killavanilla: So instead of a cheap ass, he’s a “hypermiler”. Now I like him even less. So he’s not doing it to save some money, he’s doing it to impress his friends? Well I don’t care how much experience he has, he’s going around “teaching” people how to drive recklessly for sport.

  48. iluvhatemail says:

    i have a ’06 wrangler. It has poor gas mileage but I’ve recently started driving 10mph slower on the highway and really easing into gears and I’ve noticed a 3mpg improvement which helps on the fuel budget a lot. If you live in LA, relax, take it slow, you really aren’t going to get there any faster :)

  49. ZeGerman says:

    Yes, but what about ten PRACTICAL ways to increase mileage? Shutting your engine off after 10+ seconds of idling?? Tell that to the guy behind you who’s laying on the horn as you fumble to restart your car when the light turns green.

    My vote is to reinvent the automobile. How’s that for practicality?

  50. ptkdude says:

    @MalFuller: I was gonna say #1: take the bus.

  51. Sudonum says:

    @mac-phisto:
    Upshift. Unless you are “lugging” the engine by trying place a load on it that it can’t handle, you’ll do just fine. As a matter of fact I drive a car that when you try to shift from first into second at certain rpms will actually force you into 4th gear instead (6 speed tranny). As long as when you upshift your rpms don’t fall below 1500 or so your fine.

  52. #11 get someone killed with your unsafe driving.

  53. killavanilla says:

    @kahri:
    That’s your perogative, but it’s sort of like hating a football player because he is good at what he does for pride, not money.
    Hypermilers don’t do it to ‘impress their friends’, but rather the pride of knowing they are better than the next guy at something that requires a massive amount of skill and experience.

  54. Usermanual says:

    Doesn’t physics dictate that there is no free energy? By using the engine to get your car to the highest point in the parking lot, let’s say the top of the parking garage for example, aren’t you negating any fuel savings you would get by coasting down? I would think that finding the most level place in the lot would be better. There is no extra load on the engine to climb, therefore, who cares about coasting? This sounds like a guy who puts stuff on his credit card in order to get himself out of debt.

  55. So I’m the only one who looked at number nine and read “snausage”?

  56. awdark says:

    That sounds quite scary, I know if I attempted to drive anything less than the posted speed limit I will be the cause of road rage… and if I had to follow him around I would be doing the road rage.
    Remember the rule is you wait 0.2 seconds before you hit the horn because the light turned green and they aren’t moving.

  57. zumdish says:

    @KILLAVANILLA: The 55MPH speed limit was put in place not for safety, but to save gas. It was enacted by The Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, signed on January 2, 1974

  58. Buran says:

    Better idea: stop buying those freaking huge SUVs, pickups, and minivans unless you actually need them. Stick to hatchbacks and wagons. They can carry just as much and are a lot cheaper to purchase and own/operate and pollute a lot less, too. My little four-door VW GTI runs rings around those hunks of junk and I can pile it high with stuff if I need to, even fold down the back seat to give me even more cargo room, and still get 30MPG highway. Oh, and my 2000 Golf (LEV) blew away the state’s emissions limits. This one is a ULEV and will be even more impressive. Your pickup? I can smell it a mile away.

  59. Buran says:

    @awdark: Ignore ‘em. If you’re going the limit, who’ll get the ticket? Them. I’ve had people do road rage on me even when I am doing the limit, and brake-check me because they’re pissed off that I’m an inch off their bumper — when they cut RIGHT in front of me when I was the only car in that lane along the whole visible length of the road! And that was after repeatedly drifting slowly into my lane …

    Was there a cop there to get him for drunk driving (drifting over the lines like that is a sign of drunkkenness), and improper lane change? Hell no …

  60. Buran says:

    @Sherryness: If done right, they’re safe — the trick is to know when you can do what. I’m not a hardass but I do little things like take it easy, not floor it or slam the brakes on, and so on.

    I stick to the limit and use some of these tactics (and my car came with a built-in computer that can keep a running average efficiency in mpg, L/100km, km/L, whatever, as well as show instantaneous numbers) and I get pretty decent results.

    Then some idiot in a V-10 gas-powered pickup with under-inflated tires and tons of crap in the bed darts away from the light like it’s the Indy 500 and undoes all my hard gas-saving work.

  61. Buran says:

    @weazel: If you rear-end someone going more slowly than you are, you’re responsible for it because you failed to avoid a hazard and failed to keep a responsible following distance.

    Geez, if people don’t like how fast the guy in front is going, pass CAREFULLY from a fair distance away instead of waiting til the last second, revving your car, and darting around. A pass done right doesn’t cost you any extra fuel or time.

  62. Keter says:

    I have a ’93 Acura Integra with 200K miles on it that gets 33-36 on the highway, and no less than 25 in the city. The engines in the older Honda products are extremely efficient. Change the oil, air filter and plugs regularly (I use high-performance platinum — they fire hotter and last longer) and they just keep going. The A/C was out for a while before I could afford to replace it, so I know the impact on the gas mileage — about 10%. But in Texas, A/C is necessary! ;o)

    The car has an automatic transmission, but it can easily be shifted into neutral to coast, which I occasionally do on big hills when there’s no traffic, and when sitting at stop lights or stuck in stopped traffic. Any stop more than a couple of minutes and the engine is turned off. (This car restarts very easily…other cars might not be so easy, so keep that in mind so you don’t end up stalled.) I don’t do jackrabbit starts, and try to avoid as much braking and passing as possible. The idle naturally likes to stay low, about 500 RPM, and I’ve learned not to mess with it. (Not all cars can idle this low…set yours where it doesn’t stall.)

    Note on the article’s #2 – Stick with the weight of oil recommended for your car and your area. Engine wear is a HUGE efficiency killer! Lighter weight oil does not provide good lubrication when hot and will shorten engine life. Multiblends should be used only if your area suffers real extremes in temperature during the day (like in the desert). If you are worried about cold start wear, use a good synthetic oil, or “bump” the starter just enough to get the oil pump working but not enough to start the car…wait a couple of seconds, then start the car — if it will make any difference to your car to do this, you will notice the start-up sounds different, if not, don’t bother doing this.

    Note on the article’s #3 – “Change the air filter yearly” — don’t go by that. In dusty areas you’ll need to change more often than that or switch to a washable, oil-infused filter and renew that quarterly. Remember that an air filter clogs before it shows any visible dust…don’t just “check” it because visual inspection is not reliable.

    Important items he left off – transmission, belts, hoses, EGR valve/oxygen sensor, catalytic converter, wiring, bearings/steering, and exhaust system: the condition of all of these things can really affect efficiency.

    — Service your transmission at least yearly, even if it doesn’t seem to need it. A laboring or slipping transmission causes the engine to gobble gas.

    — Check belts and hoses regularly, adjust anything that is loose and replace anything that is cracked or looks weird. Belts drive accessories that use a portion of the engine’s power; if the load they place on the engine is too great or varies a lot, this reduces efficiency. Some hoses provide air pressure or vacuum, necessary in some cars to make small adjustments to the engine’s and transmission’s performance.

    — Replace the EGR valve and oxygen sensor before they fail; have your catalytic converter checked occasionally and replaced if it shows signs of clogging. These emission control devices will very seriously reduce your engine efficiency and possibly its life if left unmaintained. Nonworking parts can cause inefficient burn and carbon buildup, and I’ve seen a plugged catalytic converter destroy an otherwise good engine with back-pressure.

    — If you smell ozone or if your lights start dimming for no apparent reason, get your electrical system checked…this is a safety issue, too…avoid a possible fire. The alternator places the second biggest load on the engine behind the transmission.

    — The alternator, water pump, camshaft and wheels all have bearings that periodically wear out and should be replaced. If you hear a bearing noise, have the noisy part replaced, even if the noise stops. It doesn’t get better, it just creates more drag, friction, heat, and power loss before it fails and cripples your car.

    — The alignment and health of your car’s steering system, if neglected, creates drag and wastes gas as well as wearing out tires and reducing handling.

    — While a plugged exhaust system can ruin an engine, a partially plugged or wide-open one can reduce engine efficiency. Engines are designed to “expect” a range of back-pressure from the exhaust, and a deviation from this can cause loss of efficiency. Consider that before you mod to a glass pack or straight pipe (which are illegal, but I’ve seen em!). Also consider that a rusted out exhaust pipe can cause deadly carbon monoxide to go into the passenger compartment!

    Lastly, the most important steps you can take to increase gas mileage:

    Buy no more car(s) than you really need and use them efficiently. (Most people in an SUV are driving alone with no cargo.) Before getting in the car, spend a few minutes to plan your routes and schedules to use a single vehicle and the shortest distance when possible. Consider sharing the costs and use of a single larger vehicle (that is only occasionally needed) with friends and family.

    Put pressure on Congress and automakers to make more efficient cars and cars that do not require petroleum for power. It is a disgrace that a 14 year old car like mine gets much better gas mileage than a comparable brand new one, and hybrids are not a viable answer — the batteries are too short-lived (5-8 years) and have horrendous replacement, recycling, and long-term environmental impact costs. It’s not the technology that’s the problem, it is the petroleum lobby. It’s past time for them to get a little “back-pressure.” ;o)

  63. Boy Howdy says:

    @Usermanual: Nope, the key here is that he’s coasting up the hill. By doing so, you’re converting your kinetic energy into potential energy by rolling up a hill, stopping your vehicle. You can get the potential energy back by rolling down the hill.

    If you pull to a level location, you’re converting your kinetic energy to something functionally unrecoverable, such as heat in your brakepads or heat on your tires from friction and kinetic energy in the form of the air you moved. You can’t get this energy back.

  64. SOhp101 says:

    Ways to boost EVERYONE’S MPG:

    – Drive the speed limit. If you are driving the speed limit, stay in the middle lanes, not the fast lane. This is for people who like to drive fast, hence the name.
    – Avoid excessive braking. This leads to avoiding execessive acceleration.
    – Maintain your car. Regular oil changes, air filter changes, correct tire inflation.
    – Stop rubbernecking or suddenly cutting across 3 lanes so you can make that exit/left turn.

    The goal here is to not only put money in your pocket but to reduce pollution/wasted energy for everyone. If people on the road would actually think about other drivers for once a lot of MPG/traffic problems would be drastically reduced.

    Driving tests (at least the written portion) need to be substantially more difficult so that dumb people are kept off the roads.

  65. Phuturephunk says:

    It may have been said already, but inflating the tires to the maximum
    pressure posted on the sidewall is the most absolutely idiotic thing
    you can do. You’ll be tearing ass through sets of tires like no ones
    business, sometimes at the most inopportune of times. Always check the
    plate by the door latch for the proper tire pressure.

  66. wonkydonky says:

    Drive the lightest car you can for your environment.
    Have your cylinder heads ported, polished & grooved.
    Get your bottom end rotating assembly lightened and gram-balanced.
    Have a lightened flywheel (~66% is good) installed.
    Use multi-prong plugs.
    Use an MSD box if you can.
    Tire inflation should always be done relative to contact-patch needs in your environment; flat tires grip, hard tires slip.

  67. backbroken says:

    If this guy got together with the fast-food ketchup-up packet woman from last week, the result would be a common sense black hole.

  68. mac-phisto says:

    @Keter: excellent points.

    Consider that before you mod to a glass pack or straight pipe (which are illegal, but I’ve seen em!)

    & on that note, the whistles go WOO!

  69. Cyfun says:

    For the most part, coasting is actually counter-productive. On most modern vehicles with fuel injected engines, if you leave the engine in gear as you coast to a stop, the injectors will actually cease to fire, and not use any fuel at all.

    This information came to light in a debate about if when driving a manual transmission car, if it’s better to put it in neutral when coasting up to a long stop, or leaving it in gear until the last second. Not only does leaving it in gear reduce fuel consumption, but since you’re using the engine’s compression to assist in slowing down, you’re also reducing wear upon your brakes.

    This technique comes in very handy on long highway hills, and helps to regain gas milage that was lost in the climbing the hill.

    Also, it is pointless to shut off your engine unless it will be off for at least 5 minutes. It may save fuel, but the wear and tear on the starter, and flywheel gear will negate that. Furthermore, keep in mind that the the most hurtful point in an engine’s day-to-day operation is when it is being started, because for those first few cranks, the engine is unoiled.

    As you all have been discussing, the vehicle’s speed is important towards fuel economy, but the most fuel efficient speed is determined by the drivetrain gearing and the most optimal RPM range of the engine in question. Contrary to what some have said, you will NOT get better fuel economy at low speeds. Your best economy will always be in the highest gear, and typically around 70mph. Even though drag may increase exponentially when above 55mph, it is fairly actually fairly negligible when compared to the energy saved when in high gear and the engine running at optimal speed. Only experimentation will show the sweet spot, of course. I once knew a guy with an early 90s Grand Am, and he found he would get 2 more miles per gallon going 75 than 65. If only the police would buy that as a legitimate argument for going a bit over the limit. :)

  70. Rusted says:

    @Phuturephunk: 30 front, 35 back. But I’ll set them to 38 for I-95 cruise. 28 MPG in a two ton BAJA….just below warp speed.

  71. MercuryPDX says:

    I’m pretty sure that if I shut off the engine of my Wrangler while it’s in gear (or it stalls), it won’t turn back on unless the car is in Park. The car won’t even shift out of Park unless the break is applied.

    10 and 3 are probably the only two out of this list I’d implement. 9 is a possibility, but I have an odometer, can get my codes pulled at AutoZone if I need to for free, and can read the existing analog gauges just fine.

    Hypermiler == Unsafe driver

  72. Cyfun says:

    Your typical auto-trans should shift into Neutral and be able to start it. The neutral switch should be activated in both Park and Neutral positions.

  73. HDC says:

    I hope this guy’s able to afford the medications to control his OCD now that he’s saved so much on gas.

    If I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure many of his tactics (not necessarily those listed here) will leave you failing your driver’s test.

  74. almightybmw says:

    @fasust1200: I love your comment about the rickshaw, a friend and I made one tonight and carted around town on it! Good fun. I usually ride my bike places though.

    @WesRubix: The inner tire will not “press down” around a corner, it will lift up, reducing traction and create wheelspin (if accelerating too hard).

    @Keter: I agree with most of what you say, but exhaust back pressure? On a super/turbocharged motor this is bad. On a naturally aspirated motor its about velocity. Too large a diameter exhaust pipe creates a slow velocity, it WILL create backpressure, leaving exhaust in the cylinder. Too small a diameter will also create backpressure from not enough room to sufficiently evacuate gases.

    @Spaceman7: Lightening your crank and flywheel creates a fast revving motor; in an auto this can damage the torque converter from incorrect lockup pressures, in a manual, the clutch will have to be slipped more or a higher than normal rpm clutch dump to ensure the engine does not stall. These things are not practice for daily driving, unless you are a skilled driver (most aren’t) and what to squeek every hp/tq out of your motor at the risk of increased wear. Multiprong plugs are pointless: electricity will take the shortest distance no matter what; once it starts sparking on a prong it will continue from there due to corrosion and wear. Try 10k miles on some, and check. One will be corroded more than the others. I’m not saying it can’t spark from a different prong, but primarily it will be from one.

    On the tire pressure ideas I read above (I did read everything, and see many good thoughts). You have to consider tirewall stiffness and contact patch. The psi on the door panel is recommended, not end all; same goes for the psi listed on the tire. One of the best ways for proper tire pressure is to consider your driving conditions and environment. A general rule (again, not end-all) is lower pressure in loose traction (snow, ice, gravel etc), higher psi on smooth/solid conditions (pavement, concrete). Live in a place with potholes and bad roads? lower the psi, helps prevent a blowout when hitting.

    The tires on my 02 grand prix suck, the contact patch is not uniform and rolls smoothly around to the sidewall, which is soft and bounces easily. Reasons? soft sidewall, went with manufactures recommended, which ended up being too low for these tires. The outside has worn more than the inside (also I take corners too fast and the tire rolls).

    I have done on and off road rally racing, so I understand automotive things more than most. I also push my cars to their limits, but not on public roads. Risking others lives is not worth it. Driving is a priviledge, not a right. If mpg is your goal, get a smaller more efficient vehicle, not going “insane” with driving practices.

  75. pkchukiss says:

    You could try letting your car lose some weight by tossing out the golf clubs or what-nots in the boot.

  76. ikes says:

    If you try to coast to a stop light here in San Diego, at least 6 cars will speed up and cut you off in that time.

  77. forever_knight says:

    @killavanilla: Don’t be silly – he doesn’t get 80-180 mpg.
    He gets 50-75.

    what are you talking about? the article said he averaged 100mpg over one summer and got up to 180mpg using a hybrid.

    i don’t advocate hypermiling just like i don’t advocate driving without a seat belt. it’s up to individuals to make those decisions on their own.

    my original point was your list = some ok tips to save gas. nothing that the Today show doesn’t mention everytime gas spikes, but the tips do improve mpg. his list and tactics = saves a ton of gas. some of the tips can be dangerous but not all. however, extreme savings.

  78. killavanilla says:

    @forever_knight:
    I know what the article said.
    But I read elsewhere that his main car, a Honda Accord EX, averages around 60 mog.
    He HAD gotten 80-180, but not for an extended period of time.
    The claim that he averaged 100 mpg over a summer is obviously difficuly to prove, but also likely to be an example of how far he pushes it, not an average for the year.
    To do that, he coasts around neighborhoods with the car off, gets to speed (slowly) on the highway then turns off the car, allowing himself to slow to an unreasonable speed, and nearly avoids accidents because he doesn’t like to come to complete stops.
    He’s a bit on the nutty side, but I admire his dedication…

  79. number9ine says:

    I hope to never wind up behind this dangerous asshat. Moderation is OK, but 180 MPG in ANY car means traveling well below the posted limit and slowing significantly on incline. This will cause traffic jams, road rage and inefficient driving on behalf of this man’s peer drivers, which will likely offset his fuel savings and increase the likelihood of an accident by driving outside the traffic flow. Darwin is watching.

  80. tahrey says:

    Hmmm, a lot of interesting near-flaming and uninformed commentary here, along with some good stuff. My own 2 pence, having experimented with my own cars to see how much mileage I can drag out of them (fuel is considerably more expensive in the UK…).
    (OK, more like 20 pounds, but its been ages since I’ve had chance to participate in one of these debates & back up / refute / ponder other’s statements… please humour me this once :)

    Older car – 1.05 litre VW Polo, 4sp manual, the Golf’s little brother and a friendly workhorse for 25000 educational miles. Rated as not actually that economic given it’s weight, small aerodynamic cross section, small engine, etc, but it did the job. The 1.3 was more frugal but still relatively average. However, it could be *made* to be thrifty. Speed turned out to be one of the main factors, possibly because of how it was underpowered (45hp! But still quick around the city as it was *light* – 850kg), under-geared (17.6/1000 in top) and shaped like a brick that was missing a corner. It did around 40mpg (UK gals) at 75mph, dropping to about 30 at 90mph, mid 30s hooning around town… but mid-SIXTIES drafting trucks around 55mph (i figured I would either easily outbrake them, or just bounce off… ah, young foolishness), and a full SEVENTY mpg at 45mph (with the motor sitting a little way below it’s 2800rpm torque peak, which I’ve heard discussed as the most efficient speed for an ICE). I only once tried that last experiment though, as it took forever just to complete my short test circuit – only just going far enough to satisfy the filling station’s 2-litre minimum dispense – and being continually passed by trucks with their horns blaring was both disconcerting, and a reminder that travelling at such a pace on a busy road marks you out as a complete dick.
    It was quite a simple machine – no AC, no power steering, only a passing attempt at power brakes – so there wasn’t much load on the engine other than simply pushing it along. I like to think if it was given something better than a Flintstones engine with single-point fuel injection bolted on it could make 80+ :) (a similar car was VWs 80s testbed for a 40hp diesel motor that combined 85mph and 85mpg)
    Turning the engine off down hills didn’t give any measurable improvement, but maybe that’s because it’s shape and my fairly flat local area meant gradients where you could coast at more than 50 were widely spaced. It didn’t really harm the safety much – no PAS, the servo vacuum persisted until you next hit the pedal so it would still operate in an emergency, and so long as you kept the key in the steering didn’t lock, and the brake/head lights and horn still operated. Plus instead of using neutral and restating it with the key, I had the option of leaving it in top with the clutch held down and just popping it when I needed power again.
    On the subject of stopping/starting the engine, I think it might have been one of the things that saved me from sub-30mpg oblivion on hurried city runs. Far too many junctions where the lights stay red an awful long time… and I tended to find that if I kept it in 1st with my foot touching the clutch, and my hand near the key, I was usually the first one to be moving out of the entire pack – so much for holding people up! And it didn’t harm the engine either… after an AWFUL lot of very hard miles being abused in the high revs (with an initially undetected stuck-open thermostat), it needed a new head gasket and piston rings… but it continued with the original starter motor and all associated parts quite happily into it’s 15th year when I sold it.

    A quick note on the theory of coasting vs modern cars, BTW – idling is indeed a bad idea. Pretty much any car made in the last 20 years, including those with carbs, have some form of overrun fuel shut-off, i.e. if you take our foot off the throttle at anything much above a fast idle rpm, it will cut the fuel supply to both quicken the slowdown, and save fuel. So if you’re heading down a hill where you’d otherwise not be touching pedals, you’re sidestepping this and HARMING your economy. BUT if you select neutral and kill the engine, you’re both a/ not using any fuel, b/ removing the engine braking effect – so you’re not wasting gravitational potential energy that could be adding to your speed on turning over an unfuelled engine at x-thousand rpms. This is even better on borderline gradients where it’s enough to pull you along at a constant speed if you coast, but not if you’re in gear (i.e. you have to apply some throttle still), as you wouldn’t trigger the cutoff anyway.
    (A similar heads up to anyone who wants to feed me the ‘it uses more fuel if you turn it off and back on again’ – nu uh… that’s only true if you wait so long the engine cools off again and requires a richer mixture to start/run smoothly, i.e. you’d have to pull out the choke/venturi knob… by which point you’d probably have burnt a whole pint of fuel just idling, and there’s no way you’d lose that much on a richer mix just getting back up to temp. Besides, fuel injected, ECU-managed engines – even the primitive polo one – are much smarter about it now and only need about a mile to settle back into their groove from a cold start. Of course, this case is a bit altered if it’s a very cold winter, but i’d leave the engine on just so the cabin doesn’t get cold, then!)

    Interestingly, a higher gear might not always be the answer, as has already been contemplated earlier in the thread. Not long before selling the Polo I did a long awaited mod and fitted a 5-speed ‘4+E’ box to it (myself! never again!!), which basically added a +20% 5th gear overdrive. After all I didn’t always need to get up to 90mph, and the high revs at any kind of motorway speed were both annoying, and couldn’t be good for the engine. Though I found it a lot more relaxing and still surprisingly competent (still managed 80-85 at full throttle and would go all day at 70), it didn’t appear to improve the cruising economy as I’d expected it to – harming it by a few percent if anything. Perhaps the relative load increased just TOO much and somehow counterbalanced the effect of running at lower rpms (where there’s less engine friction, less reciprocating drag, typically a better specific kwh/litre economy, etc)?

    My ‘newer’ car seems to work somewhat differently… A larger, heavier (a price happily paid for my friends having legroom in the back and not kneeing me in the kidneys!), slightly more modern model – Vauxhall/Opel Astra (aka Pontiac LeMans), 1.6L, 5sp. Around town the economy is borderline, typically low 30s, and anything i do with it only seems to affect the result by a few percent rather than dramatically. In addition it can feel like a bit of a whale in this environment or down country lanes, even though it’s still technically a compact car – doesn’t like dragging off the line in 1st or hard cornering. Out on the open road it gets a lot better, it’s obviously built for long distance sales rep work or something (1996 build, just before diesels became popular here) with long gears and an engine with lots of low-end thrust, and will happily eat miles between 65 and 80mph reasonably quietly and at pretty much an unchanging 40mpg – best I ever had on a tank was 46, and that was pulling out every stop as I was broke. It’s very strange how it resists most attempts at serious economising… travelling much slower like in the VW makes no improvement. The only thing that seems to create a dramatic change is flooring it at high rpms – something the little car did as if it weren’t no thang, but the ‘larger’ one hates. You can literally see the fuel guage falling if you keep up the behaviour for more than 5 miles, and the effect is distinct at next fill up… Perhaps a sign that this really is ‘as good as it gets’ and the choice of vehicle is, in this case, more important than driving habit.
    (this one has PAS and other toys, which probably don’t help; I still don’t dare run the AC much unless its a sweltering or incredibly humid day, as I got used to having the fans blare instead in the older car.. it appears to be some kind of electric unit that only causes a slight dip in idle rpm and cuts out momentarily when you floor it, so maybe it doesnt even make a difference? :)

    What is going to be interesting in the coming months is observing the built-in scan guage in my mother’s new car (Skoda Fabia – an updated, rebadged Polo that may as well be a mutant blue carrot in comparison to the original)… the kind of mpg-charting toy that was an incredibly luxury in one of my dad’s early 90s company barges is now standard fit on hatchbacks. We can now put all the tips in her owners handbook (and in mine), e.g. change up at such-and-such an engine/road speed, try to cruise around X mph, leave the AC off, to the test and get instant feedback from the display (it knows how fast the car’s going, it knows what duty cycle the ECU’s running the injectors at, so it can give a very accurate reading). She’s already improved her city mpg from around 33 to 38 by following various tips like breaking her addiction to 4th gear on the 40- and 50-mph expressways :) It’ll be a learning experience for both of us – her learning maybe for the first time certain things i’ve been following since I passed my test, and me perhaps having various unproven dogmas painfully shattered. I’ll see if I can keep a log (briefer than this!) of what works and what doesn’t…

  81. tahrey says:

    Also re: engine being unoiled when starting up… maybe if it’s been sat a long time, but I wouldn’t expect a critical amount to have run out of the head and other delicate top end areas for at least a few minutes (eg the five minute minimum that was claimed). It’s tenacious stuff, even at high temperatures, and there’s a lot of it whizzing about. The two engines i’ve had apart still had enough lubricant on the cams and around the pistons to allow them to turn without metal grinding on metal even after i’d drained the fluids… it was a messy business! And of course the bottom end bearings are continually in receipt of at least a splash because of how close they are to the sump. I’d probably class this as another misunderstanding between engine off vs engine cold – cool oil is much thicker than hot oil, can’t be pumped as easily, and won’t flow as readily into critical close-clearance spaces (e.g. piston walls vs rings) requiring a good lubricating film, hence making for greater wear when starting from cold – giving the effect of a low miles but many journeys car suffering greater wear than a high miler thats been used for fewer but longer trips. If you turn off a warm engine then back on a minute later, much of the thinner film should still be there. The problems I saw with mine were not related to stopping & starting when warm, but plain good old fashioned abuse, continual over cooling, and notoriously poor OEM head gaskets. I really think the ‘breakdown risk’ from this simple and effective tip has been overplayed – else serious car manufacturers like VW and Honda wouldn’t now be building it into their machines as a factory fit feature… (which they are)

  82. wheels OF satan! says:

    this is total crap that the guy gets 84mpg in a ranger…

    there are basic physics involved that anyone cannot beat

    volumetric efficency on gas cars is –

    30 to 40% of the calories in get made into useful energy

    diesels can do 10% more

    you need a electro-motive type of drive — like the GM electric cars of the 90’s had a option of a turbine connected to a generator to extract 80-90% of the caloric power of the gas or diesel–

    you are not gonna do much better than a prius or jetta diesel until you get away from regular internal combustion setups…

    plus a ranger has NO aerodynamic efficency.. so you need XXX horspower to push it through the air

    and 85MPG is not physcially possible in a 2500 lb ford ranger!

    sorry

    but somebody has to check up on this guys claims…

    let a engineering school class have a crack at his hyperbole!!