The costs of owning and maintaining a vehicle are rising these days, and there is no significant change on the horizon. According to a recent Consumer Reports article, the national average for gas prices is quickly approaching $4 a gallon as we move into the official summer season. This is prompting many drivers to tackle the challenge of finding new ways to improve fuel economy.
Below you will find our list of 10 hacks you can make to your vehicle that will ultimately save you money on your investment.
Related article: The Ultimate Guide to Lower Your Auto Insurance Premiums.
1. Take a Load off–Literally
One of the simplest modifications to help improve fuel efficiency is to remove any unnecessary weight from your vehicle. It is estimated that for every 100 pounds of weight your vehicle carries, it loses up to 2% in fuel efficiency.
Clear out the back of your vehicle and stop using it as a mobile storage unit. Only keep the items you need in your vehicle, like a roadside emergency kit, and get rid of the rest. Additionally, many large SUV’s have a third row of seats that is rarely used and can be removed, saving upwards of 100 extra pounds on your vehicle’s weight.
2. Instead of New, Use after-Market Filters
Installing an after-market air filter can help the engine run smoother and increase fuel mileage by reducing the restriction of airflow to the engine. More airflow equates to slightly less fuel needed to run the engine. The one downside to using these air filters is that they may get dirty faster than a standard one, so they may need to be replaced more often.
3. Use High-Performance Spark Plugs
Using high-performance spark plugs, like iridium-tipped spark plugs, can create a larger combustion spark in the engine. This contributes to a fuller and more efficient burn in the combustion chamber, providing more power, better fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
4. Convert Your Fuel Tank to Use Alternative Fuel
Converting your vehicles’ fuel tank from gasoline-powered to one fueled by vegetable oil can be relatively inexpensive. Costing somewhere around $1000 when completed, the conversion can end up saving you 50% or more on your total fuel costs. When you consider that gas is around $4.00 per gallon and the cost of recycled vegetable oil is closer to $2.00 per gallon, that’s huge savings. This could feasibly pay for itself after just a short time, depending on how much fuel you use.
The problem with this modification is the limited number of refueling options you may find, and the availability of their use by the general public. While converting your vehicle’s fuel tank from gasoline to an alternative fuel may be a good choice for your pocketbook, it may take a little longer before it is practical.
Here’s a cool article from Car and Driver on How to Convert Your Diesel to Run On Vegetable Oil.
5. Make Your Vehicle More Aerodynamic
Vehicle owners who regularly travel long distances can make modifications to the body of their vehicles to improve their overall fuel efficiency. Simple add-ons such as a grill guard/block, fencer skirts, tail/trunk wings, wheel well covers or a pickup truck bed cover, can all help to make the vehicle more aerodynamic.
Also, depending on the speed you are traveling, there are times that using the A/C is actually more fuel-efficient than rolling down the windows. Just cruising around town? it is best to keep the windows rolled down instead of turning the A/C on. But when you hop on the freeway and hit speeds over 40 miles per hour, having your windows rolled down creates a large drag on your car that can greatly affect your fuel efficiency.
6. Use a Real-Time Engine Monitoring Device
An engine monitoring device plugs into your vehicle’s On-Board Diagnostic System to provide you with streaming data on your engine’s performance. It can tell you everything from battery voltage and coolant temperature to providing you with a real-time fuel economy readout. Fuel economy devices measure fuel quantity data from the vehicle’s injection timing, and the longer the injectors remain open, the more fuel is released. This equates to instant feedback on how your driving habits affect your mileage and can help you adjust your habits to improve your fuel economy.
7. Use a Vacuum Gauge for Optimal Fuel Efficiency
A vacuum gauge is an inexpensive and low-tech device that monitors the manifold vacuum and measures instantaneous fuel economy. A higher manifold vacuum gives you higher mileage. These dials are similar in appearance to other dashboard instruments and let you know how fuel-efficient your driving habits are. This can help you learn to accelerate in ways that promote optimal fuel efficiency by maintaining a high and steady gauge pressure.
8. Get Your Car’s Electrical System Checked
Your car’s electrical network is a complex system made up of fuses, relays and electrical wiring. It runs important parts of your vehicle such as the lights, fans, air conditioner, stereo and more. Each of these systems is connected through a common ground wire which is connected to the battery’s negative terminal. Over time, connections may loosen or wear out, decreasing the amount of conductive material and increasing resistance. This causes the entire electrical network to have to work harder which can lead to numerous problems, including slower throttle responses and decreased fuel efficiency.
Installing high-quality grounding cables in your electrical network can improve your car’s performance and gas mileage at a relatively low cost. Since these grounding wires and cables are an integral part of a car’s electrical system, keeping them in good condition is important critical.
9. Switch to Synthetic Oil
Your vehicle relies on a number of different types of fluids to keep it running smoothly. By using the lowest viscosity oils (as recommended by the manufacturer) for your engine, transmission and differential, you can improve gas mileage because of the simple fact that thinner oil reduces resistance. Additionally, as temperatures in your engine change, synthetic oils have more stable viscosities which will also help in decreasing resistance. While synthetic oils are more expensive than conventional oil, they tend to last longer due to the fact that they break down slower.
Learn more about different kinds of motor oils here.
10. Adjust Your Driving Habits – Start Hyper-Miling
One of the quickest and easiest modifications that can be made to a vehicle to improve its fuel efficiency is its driver. By practicing better driving habits, you can increase your fuel mileage and put less wear and tear on your vehicle, saving you money in the long run.
Hypermiling is a new style of driving that many people swear by. It basically entails driving no more than 55 miles per hour on the highway and maximizing the range of your vehicle on a full tank of gas. When hypermiling, you’d want to map out the best route to get from point A to point B. It is not necessarily the shortest route, but rather one that has the fewest hills and least number of stoplights.
When In Doubt, Call a Pro
Regardless of the type of vehicle you drive, there are many ways to help you save money on your car. From simple, DIY ideas to more advanced and complicated overhauls, it’s always important to remember not to get in over your head. Make sure the project you decide to take on is one that you fully understand and are able to complete. When in doubt, always consult with your auto mechanic before modifying anything on your vehicle. Making any adjustments to your vehicle’s engine or electrical system can cause permanent damage and may void your vehicle’s warranty.