Advanced Steps to Better Gas Mileage

These guidelines for maximizing your mpg were submitted by Steve (Hot Georgia) in the HybridCars.com discussion thread entitled "Driving Strategies for Better Gas Mileage." People who achieve extraordinary fuel economy are known as "hyper-milers." The strategies are one-part skill, and ten-parts commitment. Steve’s mileage commonly exceeds 60 mpg in a Honda Civic Hybrid.

  1. Create a "Work" Space
    Leave plenty of room to the vehicle in front of you. If the traffic ahead slows, you will have a buffer to maintain momentum and conserve energy, allowing you to plan ahead. I use a buffer of 500-1,000 feet or more. As an added bonus, the vehicle in front of you won’t be spraying gravel on your car.
  2. Alternative Routes
    Try different routes for common trips. I could use the freeway for 99 percent of my daily commute. I have learned instead to take the first 20 miles of my 44-mile trip using a parallel highway. I travel an extra mile, but this way I avoid freeway speeds and traffic while gaining 10 mpg or more.
  3. Memorize Common Routes
    If your vehicle is not equipped with a good, accurate real-time mpg- meter it will help to keep a log between fills to determine which way saves you more. Get familiar with your route—know where a little gas is required and where you can coast.
  4. Reduce Wind Resistance by Reducing Speed
    Wind resistance roughly doubles between 55 mph and 70 mph. For example if there is a constant 200 lbs fuel-robbing wind pressure at 55, then there will be more than 400 lbs fighting you going 70. As a rule of thumb, consider driving the speed limit or lower, if traffic conditions will allow.
  5. Quality of Gasoline
    I haven’t noticed any performance changes from the most expensive gas to the cheapest. Use regular-unleaded if your car manufacturer suggests it.
  6. Air Conditioning
    The A/C system decrease your mileage, especially in smaller cars. If you desire savings, wait to activate the A/C button until rolling down a hill or decelerating. Otherwise keep it off. This way the momentum of the car runs the A/C instead of the fuel. Lastly, be sure the air conditioning or defroster is off while climbing a hill.
  7. Windshield Defroster
    The A/C compressor is automatically turned on, when the heater is set to defrost and the fan is set to ON. In this way, the moisture that has condensed on the windows will evaporate faster.

    Normally, you don’t need to keep your defroster running and it wastes fuel. If you set the knob to defrost but keep the fan set to OFF the AC compressor will not run. With this setting, there will be a steady flow of air over the window to help keep it clear. If they begin to fog up you can briefly switch the fan to a middle-high setting until they clear, then switch the fan back to OFF.

  8. Tire Pressure
    Low tire pressure will rob you of your mpg. Every car has a door sticker in the driver side door jam, and these pressures should be considered MINIMUM. Higher pressures will give you greater savings, but at the expense of a harder ride.

    Every tire has a maximum cold pressure rating imprinted on the side of the tire. You can go as high as that rating while the tire is cold (not driven for an hour) but do not exceed that maximum rating.

  9. Beginning from a Stop
    This is where you kill your mileage numbers. Accelerate as gradually as practical, gradually backing off the accelerator as you increase speed. Accelerate more slowly if there is no traffic behind you.
  10. Climbing a Hill
    Big hills are the second main mpg-killer. Try to find a different road going around the hill or you can or pick a route that doesn’t add significant distance to your trip.

    Learn to drive with the load. That is, don’t maintain speed climbing hills. If you know a hill is ahead, gradually increase your speed on your approach. Try to guess the time it will take to reach the top. Also decide the minimum speed required at the top.

    As you climb the hill, gradually slow down and try to time it so the minimum speed is reached near the top. If the traffic is extremely light, you can let your speed really sag. If you reach the top of a tall hill and find a short flat area that leads to another big hill, you are at a disadvantage because of your minimum speed. Accelerate as gradually as you can on the flat area—and time the next crest as you did for the first hill.

  11. Rolling Down a Hill
    Always plan ahead. If I know the decline is immediately followed by a steep uphill, I will usually begin my decent coasting (or switching to NEUTRAL—more on this later). Then, as I near the bottom, I’ll add enough acceleration to gain momentum for the onslaught of the incoming hill. If the hill flows down to a long, flat road at the bottom, then keep your momentum.
  12. Traffic
    Don’t drive only by how it "feels." If it seems like you are slowing down, don’t just blindly push the accelerator down. I find that it is a difficult habit to break. Only use enough fuel for the task required. Don’t just “Gas it”, no matter how much or how little. Have a reason.
    Listen to traffic reports on the radio. If you hear of a backup, go around if possible.

Additional Tips

  • If waiting in a line (fast food, etc.) set your parking brake and put the shifter into neutral. Turn the key one click to turn the engine off (provided that you do not need A/C, defroster, etc.).

    If you need the fan, radio, etc., then click once to on again, but do not restart the engine until the line you are waiting in has moved at least a cars length. Don’t just let it idle while stopped. However, the stopping-restarting, stopping-restarting again is not recommended while in traffic due to starter wear.

  • If waiting at a light and the car ahead of you "creeps" ahead a few feet, do not follow. Stay where you are.
  • If your route uses a toll booth, get a cruising pass. That way you don’t have to stop and fight traffic.
  • Keep your car’s momentum, even around corners if it can be done safely.
  • Try to time traffic lights so you can cross without stopping. Approach the light more slowly to help be more successful in timing.
  • When you get into the car and start it, don’t waste time. Don’t just stay parked to let it warm up. Buckle up, get in gear, and get going.
  • Allow extra time to accelerate when the engine is still warming up. Your engine is a fuel PIG for the first 5-20 minutes.
  • Some people are putting Mobil 1 Trisync oil into their cars and gaining mpg.
  • Keep the oil level on the full mark, not above or below. Change your oil frequently.
  • Keep the tire alignment maintained.
  • Have a clean air filter.
  • Keep in mind that on a flat, level road a vehicle gets its best mpg, while just maintaining a constant speed between 40-50 mph.
  • For a quick boost in mpg while coasting down a long hill, you can back off the accelerator and put the transmission into neutral and let the engine idle. The longer distance you roll while in N the more dramatic your savings will be. This is a good time to switch on the A/C if you are working the button to conserve fuel.

    Especially good judgment must be used in this case. You can crash so extreme caution must me made. Maximum speed while rolling should not exceed 40 mph, and on familiar roads where it can be done safely—not mountain passes while traveling on your family vacation.

    Be sure to raise the engine’s rpm by stepping on the gas a little to about 1.5-2K rpm before re-engaging the transmission. That is called "Rev-Matching" and will prevent transmission strain. If your shifter is located on the steering column—not in a console—I’d avoid this procedure. Column shifters can be difficult to move accurately.

Final Important Notes

You can implement these tips a little and see minimum, if any, result. Or, you can work them to the extreme, and see amazing results.

Remember you MUST be consistent. For example, you can drive carefully using these tips for great results, but then one day you’re late and drive hard to get there fast.

You can blow a whole weeks hard-earned mpg in just one trip—just like some people who blow their savings in Vegas.


  • Jeremiah Tobin

    Coasting with the gearshift in the neutral position can severely damage the transmission because the transmission oil pump does not work in neutral. This can cause the transmission to overheat and could result in un-warranteed damage.

  • quafeg

    the tips you gave are exactly the same as the ones that I learned on my own, good job.

  • John Shetter

    l have pulled cars with automatic trans with no problems. whats the difference?

  • Toms

    There’s some more helpful hacks here …ebook http://www.scribd.com/doc/2965390/DIY-How-To-Save-Money-on-Gas

  • Patrick Fale

    add 2 oz toluene and 1/2 oz 5w30 synthetic oil to 10 gal of gas.
    helps fuel burn more completely

  • Siddharth

    Choose a lighter color for your car.
    It will heat up less in the summers and you will not need to use the airconditioner as much!

  • Skip Huntress

    I have been Hyper Miling for the last 2 weeks and it works. Slowing down, not gunning off the start, all of the above. Mostly my attitude has changed about driving 80 on the freeway. I should be wearing a hat while I drive.

  • BJ

    One very serious concern is discussion of coasting. Were this information to get into the wrong hands without full understanding it is deadly. We have already had teenagers killed coasting down our low range mountains. The majority of this, however, is great information. I have instituted a lot of it already but still have room to grow with acceleration/speed etc. Thanks.

  • Billy Z

    I think these comments are great. Some automatic transmissions can handle the neutral state and some can’t. You should be a very VERY experienced driver and plan where and when you will habitually use neutral in an automatic. Ask your dealership or a “good” mechanic if your model is a good one to try this mode with.

    I have a Prius. After two years with the car I am amazed at the brilliance of the Japanese and I can not imagine the guilt we all (including me) must feel for wasting the energy every time we stop our cars without re-capturing that lost energy. It’s so stupid I can not imagine why it took the world (and the greedy gas / oil / car companies) to develop it.

    I wish Toyota would release software updates for the Prius so it could get even better gas mileage.

    Remember everyone. Driving safely is number ONE. Do not risk your self or your loved ones or the lives of pedestrians because you wanted to keep momentum or roll through a stop sign or whale around a corner at high speed. Your life is worth more than a few pennies saved on gas. The solutions are forthcoming and we will all be better off for them.

  • Bill Zimmermann

    Patrick,
    You think this would be a good thing to try (add 2 oz toluene and 1/2 oz 5w30 synthetic oil to 10 gal) in a hybrid?

    Bill

  • Paul from Australia

    I have owned the Honda civic Hybrid for the last 3 years (purchased in 2005) and worked out all these tips on my own. If I had known these tips when I first purchased it my fuel economy would be much lower then it currently is.

    But one extra tip I can add is try to have as less additional weight in the car as possible. Remove items from the boot that are not needed for everyday use especially heavy bulky items.

  • Joe Maffei

    Learn to drive a standard transmission not only will you save
    money on the original purchase but the gas milage will improve
    drastically.I get 34mpg in the city with my 2002 Sentra

  • Pat Fale

    Thanks to the new “corn a hal” fuel used in wisconsin–neither
    toluene nor acetone work as a fuel additive in gasoline.
    Bummer.
    But Xtra boosts diesel economy considerably
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcAuvus9C1Q

  • hybridman2

    One thing the gas companies cannot inhibit with additives is the introduction of hydrogen into your fuel/air system. You can put together a kit using parts from local hardware store or Home Depot for less than a hundred dollars.

    Using simple electrolysis- break water into hydrogen/oxygen and inject it into your air stream. It mixes with the gasoline and cause it to burn more completely – giving you better mileage, and cleaning the exhaust emissions dramatically.

    Combine a simple electrolyzer and 3 oz. of Acetone per 10 gallons of gas and get 50% OR BETTER increase in your mileage- all while cleaning the environment as well.

  • wfolta

    I’m just a beginner at this, but from what I’ve seen, slow acceleration from a stop is wasteful and annoys everyone behind you to boot. I seem to get better mileage by accelerating with traffic (strong, but not floor-it acceleration) so I’m cruising sooner.

    (Of course, it depends on conditions more than watching console bars. Accelerating from a stop to a speed that will be maintained is different from accelerating from a stop for only a block before another stop.)

    The huge “working space” is certainly okay in sparse traffic — where it accomplishes little — but in dense traffic it’s annoying and it affects traffic patterns long after you’ve moved on. I’d call it passive-aggressive driving in some sense.

    (It seems to me that the major benefit of a hybrid is regenerative braking, so if I have enough room to not have to push too hard and mechanically brake, it’s all good anyhow, yes?)

    The high-pressure tires part actually scares me a bit. The manufacturer recommends tire pressure based on the car’s handling, among other things. I wonder what your low rolling resistance does in an emergency situation or in poor driving conditions?

    To be honest, some of the advice sounds like it might be more applicable for non-hybrids.

  • RiverRat37

    Coasting in neutral is a disastrous idea on wet roads and even worse on snowy ones. Don’t do it. It’s great while it works but one good accident could have you wishing you hadn’t. Also, some want to turn the key to ‘off’ and “really” save gas. This is as dangerous as it gets! I know a fellow that did this and it locked the steering column — he panicked and crashed. Wrecked the car completely and he’ll never do it again. Expensive lesson and could have been much worse.

  • RiverRat37

    You can safely tow some cars (with the drive wheels on the ground) and others you can’t and will wreck the transmission rather quickly. You’ll need to check with a car dealer service dept to see which camp your car falls into.

  • John & Regina

    All excellent advice, except one minor point. Tips 6 and 7 recommend having the defroster off when climbing a hill, and states that it’s usually not necessary to keep the defroster on all the time. We live in Michigan, so we had a good laugh at those! The defroster most certainly needs to be on continuously during most of the winter months, and during many nights in nearby fall/spring months. Please keep in mind that a large and growing proportion of hybrid owners do NOT live in California. Many of us live in colder climes.

  • Bacon4416

    I liked the tips except for one. And I hope I’m NEVER on the same road as you when you do it. Tip #11 NEVER EVER EVER EVER do this. It means you are not in absolute control of your vehicle. I don’t care if it saves gas mileage or helps the environment, just think of the environmental impact of fuel and oil on the road and shoulders and in the grass and ditch when just one idiot thinks he’s saving the planet or money with this. And I have talked to people actually ticketed for this since they didn’t have full control of their vehicle. The 2 cents of fuel you save is not worth the one time you crash and maybe not just you but crashing into another car or a poor helpless animal!

  • Anonymous

    NEUTRAL issue (Tip #11):

    Neutral is like sitting idle at a stop light.
    You use a little bit of gas to keep the engine going.

    If you stay in gear down a hill, you use NO gas.
    The momentum/gravity/potential energy keeps the engine going.
    What keeps the pistons moving in the air pressure that gets pumped into it by the cars computer (ECU).
    This is proven by the oxygen sensor (O2 sensor) being at 100% when going down a hill or even coasting to a stop light.

    In addition, by staying in gear going down a hill the resistance of the engine/transmission helps maintain your speed saving your brakes (this is called engine braking). It is recommended down a long or steep hill so you do not wear out your brakes, but I would not recommend doing a lot of engine braking purposely/in daily driving, such as down shifting; it’s cheaper to replace the brake pads than the engine/transmission.

  • Nicola | Aesthetic Training Blog

    Make sure you aren’t carrying too much weight in your car. Extra weight will reduce your full efficiency.

    This happens if your passengers are on the heavy side too!

  • Brilly Ant