Engine Maintenance

Improve your car’s fuel efficiency with these simple steps

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Fuel efficiency is a priority for many car owners not only because of the potential cost savings but also due to the environmental benefits of reducing fuel consumption. Whether you drive a small sedan or a large SUV, there are several simple steps you can take to improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. This guide will walk you through practical tips that can help you maximize your car’s miles per gallon (MPG) and keep your fuel costs down.

1. Check Tire Pressure Regularly: Stability and Reduced Resistance

Proper tire pressure is crucial for the safety, efficiency, and performance of your vehicle. Tires that are not inflated to the correct pressure can lead to various problems, including decreased fuel efficiency, reduced tire life, and compromised handling and safety.

Impact on Fuel Efficiency 

Under-inflated tires can increase rolling resistance, which means your car’s engine has to work harder to move the vehicle forward. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, for every 1 psi drop in the pressure of all tires, fuel efficiency can be lowered by 0.2%. Maintaining optimal tire pressure is an easy and effective way to improve your vehicle’s gas mileage.

How to Check and Adjust Tire Pressure

  • Find the Recommended Pressure: Check your owner’s manual or the sticker located on the driver’s side door jamb for the manufacturer-recommended tire pressure. Do not go by the maximum pressure indicated on the tire’s sidewall; this is not the optimal pressure but rather the maximum pressure the tire can safely hold.
  • Use a Quality Tire Gauge: It’s best to use a reliable tire pressure gauge to check your tires. Digital tire gauges are generally more accurate and easier to read. Avoid checking tire pressure after a long drive, as heat can expand the tires, giving a false reading. Instead, check the pressure when the tires are cold, typically after the car has been parked overnight.
  • Adjust the Pressure: If the tire pressure is below the recommendation, use an air compressor to fill the tire to the correct level. Many gas stations offer air stations. If you overfill the tire, release some air until you reach the desired pressure.
  • Check Regularly: Make it a habit to check your tire pressure at least once a month and before any long trips. Temperature changes can affect tire pressure, with tires losing or gaining 1 psi for every 10°F change in temperature.

Benefits of Proper Tire Pressure

  • Enhanced Safety: Correctly inflated tires ensure better contact with the road, which improves traction and braking performance. This can be critical in avoiding accidents, especially in poor driving conditions.
  • Increased Tire Life: Under-inflation can cause tires to wear prematurely and unevenly. Maintaining the right tire pressure helps ensure that tires wear evenly, extending their useful life and saving you money on early replacements.
  • Improved Handling: Properly inflated tires can also improve the handling of your vehicle, making it easier to steer and more stable, particularly at higher speeds and when taking corners.
  • Environmental Benefits: By optimizing fuel efficiency, you are also reducing your vehicle’s CO2 emissions, contributing to less pollution and a lower carbon footprint.

As you can see, regularly checking and maintaining tire pressure is a simple yet crucial aspect of vehicle maintenance that offers significant benefits in terms of safety, performance, and cost savings.

By ensuring your tires are properly inflated, you can improve your car’s fuel efficiency, reduce tire wear, and enjoy a safer, smoother ride.

2. Drive sensibly – avoid aggressive driving and learn to predict the environment

One of the most effective ways to improve your car’s fuel efficiency is to adjust your driving habits. Aggressive driving behaviors, such as speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking, can significantly increase fuel consumption and reduce your car’s miles per gallon (MPG). And predicting what the person in front of you will do can also save a lot of fuel by avoiding unnecessary braking or other maneuvers that might increase fuel consumption.

Impact on Fuel Efficiency 

Aggressive driving can lower your gas mileage by roughly 15% to 30% at highway speeds and 10% to 40% in stop-and-go traffic, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This is because rapid acceleration and high-speed driving force your engine to work harder and consume more fuel. Additionally, hard braking can lead to more frequent and earlier brake repairs, adding to overall vehicle maintenance costs.

Besides driving calmer, predicting the traffic flow or people’s actions will yield the same benefits. Lower fuel consumption and longer-lasting brakes.

Tips for Sensible Driving

  • Maintain Steady Speeds: High speeds increase aerodynamic drag (wind resistance), which reduces fuel efficiency. Try to keep a consistent speed, especially on highways. Use cruise control when appropriate to help maintain a steady speed, reducing fuel consumption.
  • Accelerate Smoothly: Rather than accelerating quickly, increase your speed gradually. This smooth acceleration uses fuel more efficiently by allowing the engine to increase speed in a less strained manner. For automatic transmissions, this can also help with smoother gear transitions, which aids in maintaining a more consistent RPM.
  • Anticipate Traffic Flow: Keep an eye on the traffic ahead to anticipate stops and starts. This allows for gradual slowing and reduces the need for hard braking. By keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you, you can avoid unnecessary stop-and-go driving, which is less efficient than driving at a constant speed.
  • Avoid High Idling: Idling can consume a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use. If you anticipate being stopped for more than a minute, turn off the engine. Modern vehicles are designed to handle frequent starts without extra wear and tear, so turning off your engine at long stops can save fuel.
  • Use Engine Braking: When decelerating or driving downhill, instead of using the brakes immediately, you can simply lift your foot off the accelerator. This technique, known as engine braking, reduces wear on your brakes and can help save fuel by utilizing the engine’s resistance to slow the car.

Benefits Beyond Fuel Savings

Driving sensibly not only improves fuel efficiency but also enhances road safety. It reduces the risk of accidents due to aggressive driving behaviors and can lead to a more relaxed and stress-free driving experience. Additionally, it contributes to reduced wear and tear on your vehicle, prolonging the life of the brakes, tires, and engine.

By adopting a more sensible driving style, you can significantly improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and save money on fuel and maintenance costs. This approach not only benefits you financially but also contributes to a safer and more sustainable driving environment.

3. Keep Your Engine Properly Tuned: Optimizing Performance and Efficiency

Keeping your engine properly tuned is crucial for maintaining your vehicle’s performance and maximizing its fuel efficiency. A well-tuned engine runs smoothly and efficiently, reducing fuel consumption and minimizing harmful emissions.

Impact on Fuel Efficiency

A properly tuned engine optimizes the balance between power output and fuel consumption, ensuring that the engine uses fuel as efficiently as possible. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%. More significant repairs, like fixing a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40%.

Essential Engine Maintenance Tasks

  • Check and Replace Air Filters: A dirty air filter can reduce the amount of air entering the engine, forcing it to work harder and use more fuel. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your car’s fuel efficiency by up to 10%. Check your air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles or more often in dusty conditions.
  • Replace Spark Plugs and Wires: Worn or fouled spark plugs can cause misfires, reduced power, and poor fuel economy. Check your vehicle’s manual for the recommended interval for replacing spark plugs, and consider replacing spark plug wires at the same time for optimal ignition performance.
  • Ensure Fuel System is Clean: Over time, deposits can accumulate in your engine’s fuel system, reducing fuel efficiency. Using a fuel system cleaner can help remove these deposits and restore engine performance. Additionally, consider having your fuel injectors cleaned professionally if your vehicle is older or has high mileage.
  • Regularly Check and Change the Oil: Engine oil lubricates the moving parts, reduces friction, and helps to keep the engine clean. Using the manufacturer-recommended grade of motor oil (check your owner’s manual), and changing it at prescribed intervals, helps maintain engine efficiency and longevity.

Most of these things you can DIY, and they are pretty fast to do. But obviously, if you don’t feel safe to do them yourself, consult your mechanic. In any case, even if you do DIY a lot of maintenance for your car, it is considered a good practice to have a good and experienced mechanic perform an overall check-up of your car. He might notice stuff you missed (like a cracked belt, worn bushing or something).

Benefits of a well-tuned engine

  • Improved Reliability: Regular tuning keeps your engine running reliably and helps ensure that your vehicle is ready for everyday use and long trips without the risk of unexpected breakdowns.
  • Enhanced Driving Experience: A well-maintained engine provides smoother performance and more responsive power delivery, making your driving experience more enjoyable.
  • Lower Operating Costs: Regular maintenance can prevent costly repairs down the road. By keeping your engine in top condition, you avoid the expenses associated with major engine problems.
  • Reduced Emissions: A well-tuned engine not only runs more efficiently but also emits fewer exhaust gases. Reducing your vehicle’s emissions is better for the environment and can help your vehicle meet emission standards.

Regular engine maintenance is a key component of vehicle care that improves fuel efficiency and enhances overall vehicle performance and reliability. By keeping your engine properly tuned, you ensure that your vehicle remains efficient, environmentally friendly, and enjoyable to drive.

4. Use Air Conditioning Sparingly

Using your car’s air conditioning on maximum can reduce MPG by 5% to 25%, depending on the type of vehicle and the way it is driven. If it’s not too hot, consider using the fan instead of air conditioning or use the air conditioning intermittently.

Also, parking in the shade and using a reflective windshield shade can help keep your car cooler when parked, reducing the need for air conditioning once you start driving and putting less strain on everything – from your AC system to your car interior parts and even the paint (look at a car kept at shade/into a garage, as opposed to a car that 90% of its stationary time has been into the sun – the garage/shade kept car just has a less ‘faded’ paint color).

5. Plan and Combine Trips Efficient Use of Time and Fuel

Making several short trips from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer multi-purpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.

Plan ahead by combining errands into one trip to avoid multiple cold starts and save fuel.

This might sound like a no-brainer, but as we go on with our lives, we stop thinking about this, and we often make mistakes like these: you go to work, come back home, and after 2 hours, you remember you need something from the store. Just remembering to buy something on your way from work can spare your car from 1 cold start. And as the years pass by, such small habits will make a difference – as fuel saved and even engine wear (which can lead to bigger $ savings).

6. Other small tips that might help

There is some other stuff that might improve your fuel efficiency, but it usually only results in a 1-2% improvement. Find a small list below.

  • Reduce excess weight – carrying an extra 100 lbs in your trunk can reduce your MPG by about 1%. So yeah, clutter and unnecessary stuff might hurt your MPG.
  • Try an ‘energy conserving oil’ – some motor oils have symbols like that. And the usually do improve your gas mileage. But not a lot. But if we’re talking about maximizing your daily commuter’s MPG 1% might be worth it.
  • Optimal aerodynamics – keep windows closed at high speeds and remove roof racks and carriers when not in use. And if you own a pickup truck, placing a cover on the bed can also help reduce air drag. Also, a clean and waxed car will help (big chunks of mud on the sides of your car do not help with anything).


Improving your car’s fuel efficiency is beneficial for your wallet and the environment. By following these simple steps, you can enhance your vehicle’s performance and reduce fuel consumption. Regular maintenance, sensible driving, and careful planning are key strategies to achieve better fuel economy.

If you found this guide useful, consider sharing it with other drivers looking to reduce their fuel costs.

Car enthusiast. I am dedicated to maintaining my cars as best as I can. I love things that work, and I love keeping them in a good state.

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