How to Save Gas by Hypermiling

February 12, 2014

Most people think the only way to improve your gas mileage is to buy a more efficient car. In truth, you can save a significant amount of gas just by changing your driving habits.

Hypermiling means changing the way you drive to maximize fuel efficiency. Not sure if hypermiling is worth theHonda Civic Fuel Gauge effort? Think about it in terms of dollars instead of gallons. If you can increase fuel efficiency by 30 percent, you’re saving $1.05 on each $3.50 gallon of gas. To get a sense of how successful your hypermiling techniques are, invest in a digital fuel efficiency gauge (if your car doesn’t already have one). Seeing your savings in real time makes all the difference.

How can you get your car to go further on a tank of gas? Consider trying these seven hypermiling techniques.

Basic hypermiling techniques

Here are a few common-sense ways to save gas that don’t require any great effort or special expertise.

  • Lightening the load: Every extra pound slows you down. If your trunk is typically packed with purchases you haven’t brought inside or boxes of things you’ve been meaning to donate, clear it all out. But use common sense: Don’t jettison your jumper cables and other safety gear.
  • Properly inflating tires: Underinflated tires don’t grip the road as well, dragging down your gas mileage. Check the label on your car to find out the optimal tire pressure, and try to keep it at that level.
  • Turning off the AC: Drivers have long debated whether it’s more fuel-efficient to turn on the AC or leave the windows down while driving on the highway. A “Mythbusters” episode found that open windows are better, but many auto experts disagree. Hardcore hypermilers leave the windows up and the air conditioning off, for a sweltering but efficient trip.
  • Using cruise control: If you have cruise control, use it whenever possible — not just on long road trips. And slow down! According to fueleconomy.gov, every 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is equivalent to paying an extra 24 cents per gallon of gas.

Extreme hypermiling techniques

Enthusiastic hypermilers aim to avoid wasting even a drop of gas. Some even try to shop at stores located at a higher elevation than their homes, so that the extra weight of their purchases doesn’t hurt their fuel efficiency on the return trip. A word of warning about extreme hypermiling: Safety is more important than saving a few bucks on gas. Don’t attempt these techniques unless you’ve practiced them away from traffic and you’re a highly skilled driver.

  • Stopping without braking: Extreme hypermilers aim to gently roll to a stop at red lights and stop signs to save gas. While this takes finesse (and can be dangerous), you can also save gas by not braking unnecessarily. On the highway, for example, watch for brake lights ahead and lift your foot off the gas instead of braking hard.
  • Engine-off coasting: While some hybrid vehicles automatically shut off the engine when coasting, you can do this yourself if you drive a manual-transmission car. To coast with the engine off, put the car in neutral and turn the key to “ACC” (but not all the way off). This can be a dangerous practice, however, as turning off the engine can cause you to lose power steering and power brakes.
  • Pulse and glide: Hypermiling enthusiasts have found that, contrary to what you might expect,  maintaining a steady speed is not the most fuel-efficient way to travel. Instead, they pulse and glide, accelerating to a set speed, say 65 mph, and then coast in neutral until the car slows to 45 mph. This works best in a hybrid like the Prius (see above).

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