Especially if you have been a car owner for quite some time now, there's a good chance that you are conscious about fuel economy. After all, you want to be able to cover the most miles possible with every single liter of fuel in your tank.
At the same time, it would also be great if you would not have to stop to refuel your car too frequently. After all, a full tank of fuel is not exactly cheap. Even worse, the cost of fuel is expected to increase in the near future. In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, average gasoline prices are expected to go up slightly from $2.76 per gallon in 2018 to $2.77 per gallon in 2019.
One of the best ways to make sure you have an ideal fuel consumption rate and relatively low fuel costs each week. That means taking a closer look at your car's fuel efficiency and all of the factors that can possibly affect it.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), there are certain things that can readily vary a car's fuel economy. For starters, it can be your driving habits. On the other hand, vehicle maintenance (or the lack of it) can also significantly affect fuel efficiency. Aside from these, there are also fuel variations, vehicle variations and engine break-ins to consider.
At the same time, there are certain available bits of information regarding fuel economy that are just plain myth. These are the ones you should disregard as soon as possible. Just to help you out, here are the top 10 fuel economy myths that you should watch out for along with 10 important details to remember.
20 False: Manual transmission gives better fuel economy
For some car buyers, they argue that there is one good reason why they should opt for a model with a manual transmission instead of an automatic transmission. That is, it supposedly provides them with better fuel economy. However, this is not at all true.
As the DOE has explained, “Advances in automatic transmissions have improved their efficiency to the point that the automatic version of a vehicle often gets the same or better fuel economy than the version with a manual transmission.”
Nonetheless, it never hurts to pay a much closer attention to fuel efficiency ratings when you’re comparing the variant of a model with automatic and manual transmissions.
19 False: Starting an engine uses more fuel than idling
In reality, it is actually when you let your car run idle that tends to burn more fuel than you would like. In fact, DOE estimates that leaving your car idle can end up consuming around half a gallon of fuel every hour, depending on the engine size of your vehicle. That would cost you an estimated one to two cents every minute. That may not seem like much but imagine if this cost were to accumulate over the span of a week or a month.
In contrast, fuel injected vehicle engines of today are designed to start quite efficiently. This is particularly true when the engine is warmed up.
18 False: Warming up a car gets better gas mileage
Believe it or not, one of the quickest ways to get your car engine to warm up is by driving it. Hence, there is no need to wait for your vehicle to warm up in the driveway before you get going.
At the same time, today’s vehicles are also designed to be ready to drive within just seconds of the engine starting.
Whatever you do though, just make sure that you do not subject the car’s engine to such extreme loads until it has managed to reach its normal operating temperature. This way too, you don’t run the risk of damaging your vehicle.
17 False: EPA stickers are a fuel economy guarantee
The U.S. government’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may provide some efficiency ratings on certain vehicles. However, this does not serve as a guarantee on exactly how efficient your chosen car would be on the road.
As DOE explains, “The primary purpose of EPA fuel economy estimates is to provide consumers with a uniform, unbiased way of comparing the relative efficiency of vehicles.”
The department also added “Even though the EPA's test procedures are designed to reflect real-world driving conditions, no single test can accurately model all driving styles and environments. Differing fuel blends will also affect fuel economy.” In fact, using gasoline with 10 percent ethanol can readily decrease fuel economy by around 3 percent.
16 False: All vehicles get tested for fuel economy
In an ideal world, all vehicles would be subject to fuel economy tests that would give car buyers good insight on its efficiency prior to buying a unit. However, the simple truth is not all vehicles undergo this test. In fact, not all vehicle models are required to be tested prior to being launched in the market.
According to DOE, current testing regulations only require vehicles below a certain gross vehicle weight rating to undergo testing. That generally refers to “light-duty passenger vehicles with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. or less are tested as well as pickup trucks and cargo vans with a GVWR of 8,500 lbs. or less.”
15 False: Replacing the filter helps improve fuel efficiency
Before you change the air filter in your vehicle, you better be sure that you are doing it for all the right reasons. And that certainly means that you are not doing it in the hopes of improving your car’s fuel efficiency.
While this may have held true for older vehicle models using carbureted engines, today’s fuel-injected engines are designed with onboard computers that readily adjust the car’s fuel-air ratio to its proper level.
Hence, there would not be any need to make changes to the air filter just to improve fuel economy. On the other hand though, doing so may still help improve the engine’s performance.
14 False: Bolt-on devices and fuel additives improve fuel economy
Sure, these fuel additives and certain bolt-on devices are readily available in the market. However, that doesn’t mean you should be quick to buy them and try them on your car engine. In fact, DOE has even issued a rather stern warning regarding this.
According to the department, “Excluding full conversions that meet all EPA certification standards, tests have shown that such devices and additives do not improve fuel economy and may damage your engine and/or increase your tailpipe emissions.”
In other words, think really hard before you decide to dump something into your fuel tank. The last thing you want is to end up having major damage to your car’s engine, which could cost a lot of money to fix.
13 False: Using premium fuel is better for fuel economy
Nowadays, there are more fuel choices available for your car. It doesn’t matter if it’s running on gasoline, diesel or other types of fuel.
In gas stations, you would see premium and regular types of fuel. And while going for premium fuel sounds like a good idea, you should know that doing so would probably yield “little to no benefit” when compared to using a regular fuel. Furthermore, DOE also explained that using premium fuel is only recommended if “your vehicle was specifically designed for premium fuel, knocks severely with regular fuel or is used in severe duty operation.”
For a better guide on what type of fuel to use, consult with your car manual and check to see under what conditions is the use of premium fuel recommended.
12 False: Only small cars have good gas mileage
These days, even if you just badly want to be able to save on fuel, there is no reason to get a really small car. The simple truth is the size of the car does not really dictate how fuel efficient it would be on the road.
Recently, advances in automotive technologies, such as turbocharging, direct fuel injections, diesel engines, hybrid drivetrains, advanced transmissions and more have made larger vehicles just as fuel efficient as smaller ones. In addition, DOE has also pointed out that more than half of its top ten most efficient 2018 model year vehicles are midsize or large cars.
11 False: A car’s fuel mileage decreases with age
Just because a car is several years old doesn’t mean it is no longer capable of delivering good fuel economy. In fact, so long as you take the necessary steps to maintain your vehicle properly, there is no reason why it should not stay fuel efficient as it ages.
Furthermore, the DOE has also explained, “The EPA tests vehicles with about 5,000 miles on the odometer to account for the break-in period since a vehicle's fuel economy will typically continue to improve over the first several years of ownership.”
Moreover, once the vehicle is around 10 to 15 years old, it will only experience a slight decline in fuel economy so long as it is properly maintained.
10 Truth: There has been real improvement in fuel economy in recent years
In recent years, there has been a real desire to significantly improve fuel economy among today’s vehicles. In fact, according to Consumer Union, there is even a goal for both cars and truck to be able to reach 35 to 40 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency by the year 2025.
Such an improvement is expected to be achieved using several “fuel saving innovations on gasoline-powered vehicles.” Moreover, this goal is also reportedly supported by some “modest increases” in sales of both electric and hybrid vehicles recently.
Indeed, there are better things to come when it comes to fuel efficiency in vehicles. And that is especially good news for car owners and car buyers who are constantly conscious about fuel costs.
9 Truth: Maintaining good fuel economy comes down to maintenance
One of the best ways to ensure that your car stays fuel efficient for many years to come to ensure that it is always properly maintained. This means making sure that regular oil changes are performed on your car in time. Moreover, you should also make sure that certain parts of your vehicle are changed long before they are completely worn out and compromising vehicle performance.
So long you keep your vehicle properly maintained for years to come, you can expect to enjoy good fuel cost savings for a long time. In fact, the DOE explained, “You can save just as much fuel at the ten year anniversary as you did in the first year.” At the same time, if you decide to tune up a car that is “drastically out-of-tune,” it can lead to as much as a four percent improvement in fuel economy.
8 Truth: Fuel efficiency can save serious money
This is especially true if you happen to own a brand-new car. According to Consumer Union, “The average new vehicle buyer will start saving in the first month of ownership as fuel savings outweigh the cost of fuel-saving technology spread out over the loan.”
Even better, tremendous savings are also expected from vehicles that are meeting the 2025 goal standards. In fact, estimates point to an impressive average of $3,200 in savings per car and $4,800 in savings per truck.
On the other hand, car buyers who have opted for used car units can also expect to enjoy some fuel savings. As Consumer Union explained, “Consumers in the used market
save the most from improved fuel economy at a lower price as MPG remains steady while the vehicle depreciates.”
7 Truth: The quality of the engine oil will affect fuel economy
If there is one thing that you should pay attention to with regard to fuel economy, it is the quality of your engine oil. In fact, the right type of oil can readily help reduce engine wear on your car while also allowing you to drive that extra mile.
Basically, there are three types of engine oil that you can choose from. First is the mineral oil, which is the most basic kind. They may provide protection to the engine, but this type requires some frequent changing. On the other hand, there is also the semi-synthetic oil. This does not require as many changes as the mineral oil and provide relatively better protection to the engine in cold starts. Lastly, there is the full synthetic oil which can readily help enhance the engine’s performance. This type of oil also doesn’t require frequent changes, making it the most economical type of engine oil in the long run.
6 Truth: You can use your tire gauge to improve fuel economy
Believe it or not, if you are particularly concerned about your car’s fuel economy, you should take a little closer at your tire gauge or tire pressure monitoring system. This is because the pressure on your tires from daily driving can readily affect your engine’s fuel efficiency.
If you must know, running your car with tires that are properly inflated can readily improve your gas mileage by as much as 3.3 percent, according to the DOE.
On the other hand, running your car with under-inflated tires can readily lower your car’s gas mileage by around 0.2 percent for every drop of one psi in the average pressure of all the tires.
5 Truth: Fuel economy standards tend to be flexible
Here’s the truth, fuel economy standards have become flexible in recent years. According to Consumer Union, this has allowed automakers to meet their targets based on the type of vehicles that they develop and sell.
What this means is that fuel economy standards today are now “based on the size of the vehicle sold.” That means that smaller vehicles have higher targets while larger vehicles have lower targets. Regardless of the actual rating, however, you can certainly expect to be able to buy a truck or SUV that enjoys good fuel economy. And especially when you go for a hybrid type, you can certainly expect to achieve similar miles per gallon as a small vehicle.
4 Truth: Excess weight in the car can compromise fuel efficiency.
If you really want to generate some serious fuel savings on your vehicle, one of the first things that you should do is get rid of any unnecessary clutter inside your vehicle. This is because any of these items can readily contribute significant weight to your car. And this, in turn, can bring down your car’s daily fuel economy.
Traveling with a lot of excess weight in your car can cause your engine to burn more fuel relatively faster. When this happens, you tend to consume fuel more quickly than you would expect, causing you to refuel more frequently than you would like.
Go over all the items in your car and remove anything you absolutely don’t need all the time. This can include certain sports gears, camping items or other bulky stuff that have considerable weight.
3 Truth: Cruise control does not affect fuel economy
The truth is, cruise control can only help your car stay fuel efficient if you were driving on a completely flat road surface all the time. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. In fact, a lot of roadways nowadays feature a series of inclines that you have to go through to proceed on your intended route. Even worse, your car’s cruise control technology is not exactly designed to consider certain shifts in the road terrain.
When it comes to engaging your cruise control, it helps to be more aware of the road layout so that you can make the most fuel efficiency on long flat roads. When it comes to road inclines and declines, however, the best way to be more fuel-efficient is to keep your foot on the pedals and your hands behind the wheel.
2 Truth: Avoiding traffic can help improve fuel economy
If there is one thing that readily threatens your car’s fuel economy daily, it’s road traffic. Indeed, all that shifting between the gas and pedal is bad news for your fuel consumption.
To make the most mileage with every liter of fuel, it helps to find a way to navigate the roads traffic-free.
Just how can you do this in the modern age? Well, you can always rely on mobile apps such as Waze that can readily give you feedback on real-time road conditions. Even better, it can also give you routes that take less travel time and therefore, less traffic.
1 Truth: Fuel economy can be improved for free.
Believe it or not, improving your car’s fuel economy can be done without having to pay for any services on your car. It all starts with learning how to be a better car driver.
According to the DOE, this means learning to accelerate and brake your car more smoothly on the road. In fact, the Lafontaine Automotive Group in Michigan has even pointed out that aggressive driving can readily decrease your car’s mileage by as much as 33 percent. Hence, it would really be best if your drive calmly and observe the area’s speed limits.
So long as your driving is consistent and steady, your car is going to be more fuel-efficient than ever.
Sources: fueleconomy.gov, consumersunion.org, eia.gove, familydealblog.com, tffa.com