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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Fuel Economy Tips

Posted by Jason Haupt - Energy

This week, I think we should talk about fuel usage in our cars. For me, one of my favorite things to do in the fall is drive with the windows rolled down. The smell and feel of fall gets me excited to take a drive and enjoy the weather. That being said, here are a few tips to make sure you are getting the best fuel economy you can out of your car.

Maintain your car. This is one of the single most effective ways to improve your fuel economy. has a check list. By maintaining your car, you can catch maintenance issues that your car may have. This has the potential to increase your fuel economy by as much as 40% in some cases.

Change your driving habits. Driving sensibly can reduce your fuel consumption significantly. Rapidly changing your speed can significantly decrease your fuel economy. According to, it can decrease your fuel economy by 1/3 at highway speeds. Slowing down can also help. Each car is different, but generally fuel economy decreases by as much as 14% above 50 MPH. Follow the posted speed limit and you might see your fuel economy increase. Take the junk out of the trunk. Removing excess weight from your car can improve fuel economy by up to 1% - 2% per 100 lbs. that you are not carrying around in your car. The reduction is dependent on the percentage of the total weight of the car. This means that smaller, lighter cars will see greater improvements. Don't idle your car. I know that this seems a little obvious, but depending on the size of your engine and a/c demand, you could burn as much as ½ gallon of fuel each hour you idle. Use the features in your car. Using cruise control and the overdrive gear (if you have one) will reduce the load on the engine. Cruise control maintains speed, and it is more efficient to maintain a constant speed than slowing down and speeding up over and over. The overdrive gear will reduce the speed of the engine, which will increase efficiency and reduce engine wear. Keep the drag down. I know that on long trips space is at a premium and that roof racks seem to be the solution to fitting as much as you can in a smaller car. But that loaded roof rack could reduce your fuel economy by as much as 5%. Combine trips. Planning out your trips to the store so that you are going to the store in the most efficient way possible can help increase fuel economy. Combining the trip to the grocery with other errands in the same area will eliminate extra driving and will also save you some time. Plan your commute. If you are like me, your commute does not include a lot of traffic. But some of you out there have to deal with traffic and other issues. Talk with your boss, and if possible, stagger your work hours to limit the time that you have to deal with traffic. Try to work out a telecommuting schedule with your boss. Working from home once a week will help reduce your fuel costs. Try and car pool if possible. This will reduce traffic and should help to speed up your commute.

For more information, visit and look at the Gas Mileage Tips. You can also compare different cars. If you are looking for a new car, look at the fuel economy and calculate the potential savings that you will see between cars.

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