How to improve your fuel economy

One of the most regular costs we incur is fuel. It’s also a cost that varies a great deal, depending on a number of owner behaviours.

In my last article we talked about calculating the true cost of vehicle ownership.

One of the most regular costs we incur is fuel. It’s also a cost that varies a great deal, depending on a number of owner behaviours.

Wouldn’t it be great to lower this cost? It’s possible, if you have the discipline to take certain steps.

The first would be to determine what your current fuel economy is. This is relatively easy to do. At your next fill-up, either make a note of your current mileage or reset the trip odometer to zero. Now drive as you normally would until your next fill-up. Make note of how many kilometers you’ve driven, either by subtracting your starting mileage from your current mileage or by just looking at the trip odometer.

Divide the number of kilometers driven by the number of litres it took to refill your vehicle. This is your current fuel economy. Example: if you drove 100 km and used nine litres of fuel, your current fuel economy would be 9 litres per 100 km or approximately 30 miles per gallon.

Now let’s talk about improving this fuel economy.

The first thing you can do is slow down. A heavy foot costs you fuel economy. It’s estimated that fuel economy can be increased by as much as 15 per cent by driving under 100 km/h. Faster driving uses more engine power to overcome drag. Quick acceleration is another enemy of good fuel economy. Many newer vehicles have an available dash display that shows current fuel economy. Try having this displayed and watch what habits and behaviour effect your fuel economy positively or negatively.

The next step is making sure your car is properly tuned.

This includes:

Regularly servicing your vehicle so it’s running optimally. Fuel filters, sensors and fuel injectors all need to be clean and working properly. Get any warning lights looked at immediately.

A clean air filter. Replacing or cleaning your air filter regularly will have help you fuel economy by as much as 10 per cent.

Keeping your tires properly inflated. Check your tire pressure regularly. Low tire pressure increases the rolling resistance of your vehicle and hurts fuel economy. Properly inflated tires can increase fuel economy by up to three per cent. Tires can lose one pound of air pressure per square inch per month, so you should check your tire pressure at least monthly. I doubt most of us ever check our tire pressure but we absolutely should.

Other steps include:

Lighten your load. Weight is a big deal with stop-and-go driving. An extra 45 kilograms affects fuel economy by one to two per cent. Go through the trunk or box of your truck and remove all unnecessary items.

Check your fuel needs. If your manual says to use regular and you’re using premium you may be adding unnecessary costs to your fill-up that will hurt your fuel economy. Keep your tank between a quarter full and half full will also increase fuel economy by lessening weight.

Remove your roof rack when it’s not needed. More drag on your vehicle will result in more fuel consumption. Even aerodynamic racks cause drag.

Avoid using the air conditioning when not needed. A/C causes the engine to work harder and thus lessens fuel economy. Rolling down the windows may be enough cooling. However at higher speeds the drag of open windows may lessen fuel economy.

Adjust your braking habits. Re-acceleration after braking reduces fuel economy.

Enable your overdrive if you have this feature. Newer cars may have a switch on the shifter to enable overdrive. This will increase fuel economy at higher speeds by using a higher gear.

Avoid idling if not necessary. Idling uses more fuel than you may think.

If you take most of the steps we’ve discussed here, how big of difference would it actually make? A lot! If we change our habits and stick to it we could likely easily increase our fuel economy by 15 per cent. This may not sound like a lot, but if we spend $250 per month on fuel, this would amount to over $450 per year. Seems like a no brainer.

Start a journal, either with a notepad in the console or with one the many apps available for your smartphone. Change your habits as we’ve discussed for a month while tracking your fuel economy. Then decide for yourself if it’s worth it.

Catch Driving, with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.