Maximize Your MPG

Maximize mileageWhen I think of the word “hypermiling,” a lot of negative stuff comes to mind. I think of folks going 55 mph and holding up traffic on the Interstate, or putting cardboard over their radiators (I’m not kidding!) because it supposedly improves fuel economy.

But hypermiling doesn’t have to be like that. At heart, it’s just about squeezing every possible mile out of each gallon of gas or diesel, and with fuel prices as high as they are these days, that’s a goal that every driver can appreciate. So I went ahead and made a list of reasonable hypermiling techniques; you know, things that regular folk like you and me can pull off without too much trouble. Follow these tips and I promise you, you’re going to spend less on fuel without expending much effort.

1. Keep your tires properly inflated.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to do some work on my wife’s car, or my kids’ cars, and found that the tire pressures were way too low. It’s easy to let this slide, because the way modern tires are designed, they always look a little flat — and they keep looking only a little flat even when they’re quite low on air. It gets worse with run-flat tires, which basically always look the same.

But here’s the thing: tires need their full allotment of air to roll efficiently. If they’re not inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications, you’ll need more energy to make them spin, and that means more fuel out of your tank.

So listen, do your wallet a favor and pick up a simple tire pressure gauge like this one from Autocraft. You don’t have to check the pressures every day or anything, but I’d say you want to check them every other time you stop to refuel. If they’re low, most filling stations have an air machine right there on the premises. You can honestly save a few miles per gallon or more just by incorporating regular tire-checks into your routine.

2. Take the route with the fewest full stops.
You’ve got the internet, right? Probably a few times over, what with your computer, your phone, your tablet — you name it. So put your favorite mapping program to work, and make sure that whenever you’re going somewhere, you’re maximizing continuous driving time and minimizing stops.

When you’re stopped, see, the engine’s still running, but you’re not going anywhere. Not good for MPG. Stop-and-go traffic can be even worse, because moving a stationary vehicle requires a lot of energy from the motor, and then you stop and repeat the process. On the other hand, so-called “steady-state” cruising is great for fuel economy. In a typical car, your MPG will increase by up to 50% in this scenario, so it often makes sense to take a longer route with fewer stops. Just do a little advance planning with one of those navigation programs, and you could save a lot of coin.

3. Be gentle with the throttle.
Americans have always loved good power, and as capable as engines are these days, it’s very tempting to goose that go-pedal at every opportunity. Not surprisingly, that’s not good for your fuel economy. But it’s not just about resisting the urge to burn a little rubber; there are also plenty of everyday situations where you can conserve fuel just by having a lighter foot.

Take the simple act of driving up a hill, for example. A lot of us will naturally ride the brakes on the way down a hill and then hammer the throttle on the way up, but trust me, there’s a better way. As long as there’s no one right behind you or in front of you, what you should do is anticipate that uphill climb by building a little extra speed on the way down, because that means you’ll need less energy to climb back up. And if no one’s behind you, don’t worry if your speed drops below the limit halfway up the hill. What’s your hurry? You’re saving fuel, right?

Another example is taking off from a stop sign or stop light. Again, our natural tendency is to step on it and keep up with traffic, but I’m here to tell you that it’s all about being smooth. Whereas big sudden throttle inputs open the floodgates in your engine, smooth progressive inputs keep the fuel flow nice and moderate. So be smooth out there, my friends, and save some money while you’re at it.

4. What do YOU think?
Now it’s your turn to chime in. Did I forget anything? What are some tricks that you use to conserve fuel? Let me know in the comments, and I might even add my own two cents.

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for tips on how to maximize your mileage.


  1. Christopher Hill says:

    Ensure your “tune up” has been done according to manufacturers’ suggestions. Even a simple filter and spark plug change goes a long way.

    Also, do not underestimate the benefits of synthetic oils.

  2. I have a couple talking points on this.

    1. Keep your vehicle properly maintained. Got a gaping rust hole in your fender? Fix it. Extra drag equals extra fuel, and any serious rust damage is far from safe. Brakes dragging a bit? Say goodbye to your fuel economy! Even little things like worn shocks, can have an effect on fuel economy, even if only minimal. If you want to squeeze out every last mile possible, always be mindful of everything on your vehicle.

    2. I’m a hypermiler. I’m guilty of pulse-and-glide (not advisable with an automatic transmission. Sorry folks, can’t bump start an automatic. Don’t kill your starter repeatedly for extra mileage!), short shifting (5MT or die) and just about every other proven technique in the book. Gradual stops, gradual acceleration, sensible freeway speed, engine shut off at long stops, denying the fact that A/C exists unless it’s hot enough that I can’t breathe, etc.

    However, there’s one technique that no one discusses much anymore. Light pacing. Say you have a green light, and half way to the next light, you’re at 25 mph, ten under the speed limit, and the next light is yellow. Don’t use the extra energy to hit the speed limit if there’s nobody on your tail. Save the energy, and pace the light. Pacing translates to adjusting speed so that you hit the next light after it’s already green and traffic is moving again. Let’s say you do jump right up to the speed limit, alright? You’ve just burned energy getting to 35mph, then you have to stop, then you’re waiting with your engine idling for the light to turn green.

    Science has given us two conclusive pieces of information in favor of pacing:
    1. If you don’t have to slow down to a crawl or stop completely, you don’t expend as much energy (in this case, fuel) speeding back up.
    2. Idling is the worst fuel consuming situation in existence! If you can avoid almost a solid minute idling at a traffic light by dropping some speed and being patient, do it.

    Hypermilers would be a thing of the past if none of it worked. I can not stress enough that you must avoid any crackpot techniques like cardboard over your radiator, but hypermiling is valid in theory, and is successfully used daily by a good many people.

    Have a good day, everyone!

  3. Kirk Ostby says:

    Arrange to travel during off-peak times whenever possible. If flex-scheduling or tele-commuting is available at work, arrange your schedule to avoid travel during traditional “rush hours”.

    Purchase a newer, more fuel efficient car for commuting. It doesn’t mean you have to go deep in debt to buy a new hybrid. Even a 10-year-old hatchback that gets 30 mpg is a huge improvement over an even older sedan that only gets 15 mpg.

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