Introduction: Tips on How to Improve Gas Mileage

Picture of Tips on How to Improve Gas Mileage

Unfortunately some of us have to drive large trucks either because of climate, work, location, or any combination of other things. Most of these large vehicles get very poor mileage, but but with proper care and maintenance we can improve it slightly.

Step 1: Get a Topper or Cover for Your Truck

Picture of Get a Topper or Cover for Your Truck

Mythbusters have proved that these aren't the most fuel efficient when the truck is empty, but they didn't try it when it was full of wood or old appliances. A topper can really help when you are hauling bulky unaerodynamic objects by reducing the drag from wind.

Step 2: Reduce Weight

Picture of Reduce Weight

This one is pretty obvious. The more junk you have, the more power you need to haul it. Try to reduce all unnecessary weight. For example, get rid of steel racing jacks, and replace then with aluminum ones, or bottle jacks. Also clear out stuff that you don't need like shovels or bags of concrete or stones, and other stuff like that.

Step 3: Re-route Air Intakes

Picture of Re-route Air Intakes

In the winter (especially in harsh northern climates) you should cover the front grill of your vehicle to increase the temperature of the air that is entering your engine. Blocking the front will force the air to be pulled past the hot metal of your engine resulting in better efficiency. This is especially true with diesel engines.

Step 4: Driving Habits

Picture of Driving Habits

Another simple alternative is to drive more efficiently. Drive at around 55 mph, or the lowest rpm in your highest gear. You should also make sure overdrive is on, which tells your car to shift gears sooner. If you drive a manual, shift up into a higher gear as soon as possible.
When you are approaching a stop light, let the car coast for as long as you can. If you are far away and it is red, sometimes you can time it in a way that you won't even need your brakes. This will greatly increase mileage, considering that it takes the most energy to accelerate form a dead stop.

Step 5: Maintenance and Care

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One of the most important things you can do for your vehicle is to make sure the tires are at the proper pressure, or maybe one or two psi higher. This will increase the tire's circumference, and also improve the way the tread wears.
Another simple one is to make sure your belts are in good condition. Slipping belts take more power to turn, and don't transmit as much energy.
Keep your fluids full and make sure you have plenty of coolant in the summer.
Use an oil that is a little less viscous (thinner) to decrease friction, or you could use synthetic (not recommended).
At every oil change (or possibly more frequently if your car is older) use an injector of carb cleaner or similar. All you have to do is pour it in your gas tank and it will dissolve gunk in your fuel system.

Step 6: Windows and AC

Picture of Windows and AC

During the summertime avoid using your air conditioning as much as possible. It puts a lot of load on your car and uses lots of gas. Instead open your windows. Windows cause drag that can also decrease mileage, but not as much as your ac.
In the winter using your heater doesn't affect your mileage, it can actually help keep the engine cool on warmer days.

Step 7: Thats All for Now

Well, thats all I could think of right now.

If you have ideas or tips feel free to comment.

Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Don't forget to rate and vote!


Dakota Joel98 (author)2014-08-02

I can go easy on the brake ...But I like the gas pedal (Sniffle) I keep reading that my aggressive, proud, costly, incredibly and unmistakeably awesome driving is bad for the vehicle. I only drive a Dodge Dakota pickup but still I have that unquenchable NEED FOR SPEED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


beff50 (author)2008-06-16

what about when you arnt haling. it is better if you don't have one because most people don't keep things in thier truck. so put it this way. if you put a cap on then you are ruining the buble inside the bed even tho most of the time you arn't even carrying anything. it is better to stay away from thes caps.

f5mando (author)beff502009-01-01

What is the 'buble' (bubble?) inside the bed to which you refer? How does ruining it affect MPG?

beff50 (author)f5mando2009-01-01

when you don't have a cover over the bed on a truck a bubble of air forms in the bed, it goes over the top of the cab the cold air quickly sinks down, lightly deflects off the tailgate and pushes on the bottom of the cab, and escapes out the sides of the bubble, and that increases your mpg. if you put any kind of cover or it you drive with the tailgate down, you are reducing the gas millage of your truck. this was proven by Mithbusters.

fotoboy (author)beff502012-11-22

I do not EVER... take Mythbusters word for anything, I have seen so many blundering holes in their busting theories, They make swiss cheese look solid. It is an EASY experiment to do... run 5 gallons with the tailgate up and 5 with it down, and see how far you get... I'll bet its durn close either way... Anyway, I think my truck was built before they invented aerodynamics... (1975).

f5mando (author)fotoboy2012-11-22

Ha! Good one, fotoboy- thanks!

f5mando (author)beff502009-01-01

I had no idea about this. I'd always thought pickup trucks were the least aerodynamic of all (outside of "real" trucks and semi-trailers). Shows how little I really do know, eh?! Thanks for setting me straight, with a diagram, no less!

fotoboy (author)2012-11-22

Thanks for the tips... one big one you mentioned is keeping speed down... I got a 5mpg bump when I slowed my minivan down from 80 to 70... just a thought

fotoboy (author)2012-11-22

Ok, this is just stupid... if this were such a good idea, they would be built this way.

mr_man (author)2012-06-03

I agree. I may not use all the tools on every trip, but if it was ever necessary to go back and get tools that I needed, then this would negate any fuel savings from not having the tools with me. That being said, I still sometimes take the toolbox out when I know I won't need it. Also I hope to replace my steel toolbox with a plastic one.

I sometimes put the AC on for a minute when I'm going downhill, or decelerating, thereby using some of the energy that would otherwise go into the brakes.
They say you're supposed to put the AC on at least once a week anyway to lube the seals.

Sometimes when I'm quickly approaching a red light, and I have an idea of when it will turn green, I brake fairly hard for just a second or two to shed some speed. I try to brake just enough, early on, so that I don't have to brake anymore as I approach the light. In theory, this is the most efficient, but it's tricky and complicated to optimize.

zehcnasytridmi (author)2010-04-12

Blocking the cold air from your engine is not going to help anything (in my opinion). "keeping your engine warm in the winter" will only result in power loss and a less efficient vehicle due to the motor being restricted from adequate intake and ventilation. Did you find any gains in fuel economy by doing this? I have never heard of any rigs doing this either...

SG1Oniell (author)zehcnasytridmi2011-05-14

Where have you been living? I see big rigs with a cover over their grill all the time. They put these on their trucks because diesel runs more efficiently the hotter it is (ever notice how some diesel vehicles have an engine heater for use before you turn them on?). The cover also helps to prevent moisture from freezing in the radiator, and that restricted airflow on the radiator actually causes the truck to warm up faster, both the engine and the cab I believe. Oh, and it helps prevent the moisture in the air from causing rust.

demigod123 (author)SG1Oniell2012-02-24

the only thing the engine heaters are for is to warm up the oil thats it. as for as helping run better blocking the air getting in to the engine bay will actually in your engine temps cause your thermostat to to fail and freeze close cause your engine to overheat. the only thing that this might help with is aerodynamics and the pros against the cons for this isnt that great after the engine warms up.

SG1Oniell (author)demigod1232012-02-24

You may want to learn to do some research before speaking about a topic you don't know too much about. Also, proper grammar would help you to come across as more reliable a source of information when speaking on such topics. This generation with all the "text talk" is simply horrific. While I do not dispute the engine heater bit, it was given as an example. Look at gasoline engines, they do not have the same heaters as diesel do. I pulled 3 discussions for your benefit.



*Also, note that it actually would decrease how aerodynamic the truck is due to the restricted airflow. You are forcing more air around the cab, rather than allowing some to pass into the engine, and flowing out through the bottom or other parts. And while I may not be a trucker, I am an engineer with experience studying aerodynamics in a wind tunnel. A truck, depending upon the design, is one of the worst aerodynamic shapes out there, with the best being a theoretical "perfect" teardrop shape. Basically, a truck is a big rectangular prism, and rectangular prisms are in fact the worst aerodynamic shape when you look at simple shapes. You could design something to be worse, but there's no need for that.

demigod123 (author)SG1Oniell2012-02-24

Gasoline engines do have engine heaters that you can buy and they do the same thing. I may not have all the degrees you have, heck a flunked out of college, but that doesnt mean that i dont know about cars ive done more stuff with cars then you probably have so i know what i am talking about. And just because i dont use my shift key of the apostrophe doesnt mean it "text talk". "Text talk" is abbreviating every word. If you really have "studied" aerodynamics then you would know that the engine and firewall has more restriction on airflow then covering up the grill would. Not to mention trucks an go just as fast cars can. By the way i drive a mini truck and still get just as good as gas mileage as a friend of mine a honda civic, and i can out perform them any day of the week.

SG1Oniell (author)demigod1232012-02-25

Once again I must return with more material for your benefit, view this official peterbilt report on aerodynamics(maybe seeing this from peterbilt will help your misconceptions, as they would know far better than I). I will also explain it to you to help you understand. On page 7 (cover page does not count as page 1), you will notice two separate CFD study results.

The pictorial representation may help you. I would draw your attention to the grill area on both trucks. Notice how there is in face a color other than red there, meaning air is allowed to pass through and escape with less of an impact upon the aerodynamics of the design. Now visualize placing the bra over the grill. You do not dispute it restricts air flow correct? Now notice the wind shield, see how, due to it being solid, it is almost exclusively red? That is comparable to the result you would have when covering the grill. This clearly shows that solid surfaces are worse than those that are slotted to allow airflow. As the bra is made to restrict the airflow further, more of the actual air drag will be placed onto the truck, resulting in lower aerodynamics. And this hasn't become a question of performance. For that I would have you look at the older caterpillar engines. Quite a strong engine. Though a truck is suited to only a few tasks, same as cars. They out perform each other in different areas.
*Note: It may not be "text talk" but it "appears" to show that you can't be bothered with speaking correctly, something that employers, especially in engineering fields, take notice of. I would never have received any of my jobs had I spoken similarly. No offense to you, I just dislike how many people speak that way in general, and tend to react negatively. I have poor social skills when dealing with something like that, certain things just rub me the wrong way and I can't stop myself from saying anything. One of the pitfalls of us engineers is that we tend to have worse than average social skills, and many quirks. So apologies if that seemed like a personal attack. May we start over? If I haven't already burned any bridges...

demigod123 (author)SG1Oniell2012-02-25

ok just so that you know i never said anything about large diesel trucks. as far as a car bra they are not made to restrict airflow they move air to go up sooner and protect the paint on the front of a car. i know that if you have less surface area for air to pass over you have more aerodynamics therefor an engine is not an ideal surface for aerodynamics. although if we may get back to the picture neither picture has a peterbilt truck in it. one is a dodge van and the other is a ford truck. the ford i know for a fact that it does not have a diesel engine in it.

SG1Oniell (author)demigod1232012-02-25

My original comment was addressing z's (for simplicity I will refer to him as z, rather than typing the whole name) bit about "rigs." I would agree with you regarding smaller vehicles. It seems there was simply some miscommunication between us. Apologies for the rather pointed and rude manner in which I spoke to you.

cheftpm (author)2010-08-19


Darwinfish (author)cheftpm2010-10-02

You don't drive 4WD when you're worried about fuel economy. You drive 4WD in mud, ice, or snow, where 2WD would strand you.

(Besides, driving 4WD when you don't need to is really hard on the car.)

demigod123 (author)Darwinfish2012-02-24

driving with 4wd on isnt hard on a car switching while driving down the road is hard on the drivetrain and driving with 4wd on actuall does give you better gass mileage because your car is pushing and pulling in the same direction to move as opposed to just 2wd is just pushing

Ciuschi (author)2009-08-20

Hi. I suppose that in the USA big cars with smaller engines are truly ugly, so they are not a realistic choiche. Here in Europe there are also hot or cold places, and also there are people who need huge cars for job, family or hobby, but usually biggest engines are 2 litre gas or 2.5 litre Diesel, and they're enough! IMHO it's a matter of marketing/history/culture. For example: automated gear transmission never had success in Europe: it was just for extra-luxury cars, or for people who just weren't able to use manual gears for phisical issues. This UNTILL Ferrari used "robotized" gear-boxes in their Formula1 cars, meaning that new tecnologies of automatic transmission was for very active and cool people. Since then new fuel-efficient automatic transmission cars gained increasing success, in all the segments of the market. I hope your domestic industry soon get interest in efficient but attractive (also big) cars.

SG1Oniell (author)Ciuschi2011-05-14

you'll find that we Americans tend to like bigger, bolder and more aggressive vehicles. That pretty much sums up "American Muscle" cars for you. European automotive manufacturers in particular prefer sleaker, subtler designs that have more of an elegance about them.

jmcdermott (author)2011-04-30

thats why you get a geo :)

abadfart (author)2010-08-05

wow you have really low miles

Derin (author)2008-07-14

for coolant on vw engines:
approved coolant will be red

LinuxH4x0r (author)Derin2008-07-14

Does it really matter? NO!

Derin (author)LinuxH4x0r2008-07-14

actually,it does
from the manual:"Using unapproved coolant may damage engine."

alanfreefal (author)Derin2008-07-22

thats so vw makes money... theyre all the same whether you like it or not.

Jonny Katana (author)alanfreefal2010-01-15

 Ethylene glycol = Ethylene glycol.

GM's Dex-Cool coolant shouldn't be mixed with other generic coolants, though, there's the possibility that the two can react and form a gel within the cooling system. Nasty stuff.

Derin (author)alanfreefal2008-07-23

oh ok

Derin (author)Derin2009-10-16

*late facepalm*

LinuxH4x0r (author)Derin2008-07-14

*rolls eyes* whatever<br/>

abadfart (author)2009-12-27

don't forget to upgrade your air filter and take out parts that have no use i am missing lots of parts from my car to make it lighter 

Hmff (author)2009-11-19

you have some good points ill try them on my f150.

Hmff (author)2009-11-18

Great idea. I live in wiscosin and its always cold here that ill help my truck alought.

Walis (author)2009-05-15

The thing is that AC takes 5 - 10kW from the engine power anytime, no matter if you go slow or fast. Open windows change the aerodynamical resistance of the vehicle, but this depends on your speed. So I would say - leave the windows open until you go faster on the highway.

Walis (author)2009-05-14

Basic advantage of fully pressurized tires is that you must not overpower the tire roll resistance, which can make about a half liter / 100km (european units). The advantage of tires circumference is not so important since the tire always squeezes to its nominal diameter. Therefore keep the tires checked by every refuelling and inflate it to recommended value, maybe slightly more, so the tire does not look squeezed (but careful about the maximum pressure!!! - you risk tire explosion when driving in extremely hot weather and bad roads!!!!) And DO NOT change oil viscosity or type!!! The engine is designed to run in certain temperature range and you can damage the engine gradually because the parts will wear more when not lubricated properly, either by lower viscosity or by old and filthy oil. The only way is to change it regularly.

Walis (author)2009-05-14

The ideal RPM to fuel consumption efficiency is just on the top of the torque diagram of your engine - you get the most power out to drag the vehicle. So get that, read carefully the RPM for max torque and try to be always around that value. The "highest gear + lowest RPM" works only with old gasoline cars with carburetors. Coasting described works great in hybrids, but also in usual car, if you run faster than you need and do not use the gas pedal, you are braking with your engine inertia and the ECU switches the gas injection off if the engine RPM are above certain level. So if you need to decrease your speed slightly, just shift the gear one step lower and release the gas pedal and you save some gas again:-)

Walis (author)2009-05-14

You can get the engine operation temperature faster by covering the radiator in winter (front grille). That means switching the ECU to normal operation mode after cold start, which consumes less fuel due to different injection modes (for cold start and low engine temperatures (NOT INTAKE AIR TEMP!!) you need more fuel.The colder the air, the more efficient cycle - that is why we use intercoolers between turbo and intake valves... And thanks to the higher power resulting from more air in the cylinder, we can avoid pressing the gas pedal so hard :-)

arionisa (author)2009-04-24

Synthetics have NO effect on fuel mileage, a 5-30 "dino" and a 5w30 synthetic will get you the exact same mileage. The viscosity rating is set by the SAE standard, which means a dino or synth of the same viscosity rating will have the exact same qualities. What a synthetic WILL do is allow you to go longer between oil changes. Synthetics don't break down as quickly as dino's do, so using synth's you can go longer between oil changes, Heat is a major factor, in engines that are constantly running "hot", a synthetic will last a LOT longer than dino, engines that run coll most of the time you won't see much difference. Engines that run extremely hot (like turbines) MUST use synthetics because dino oils can NOT withstand the extreme heat of operations. Changing the oil when it needs it WILL help improve your mileage because your not wasting engine power trying to pump sludged up oil, but in any car that gets regular oil changes there will be no noticeable difference between synth and dino as far as fuel mileage goes.

superdudemanguy (author)2009-04-14

The threshold for MOST vehicles in terms of window drag is 50 mph. Therefore for best results use the AC on the highway while using cruise control at 55. Realistically rolling down the windows is best in all non highway driving.

JacobAziza (author)2009-04-08

If you aren't concerned about looks, you will get an aero benefit if you block the grill in front using plastic instead of behind it with canvass

HARMON_RACING (author)2009-03-24

No actually they dont. Now, I'm not saying that ALL of them are a waste of time. Because you do have some good points. However you also have some ideas that just won't work (they were good theories however). But what we need to keep in mind is that NOT ALL CARS (or trucks) ARE THE SAME!!!!! What may work for you probably wont work for me, or the next guy. Different Cars (even if there the same year, make, and model) are just plain different. So if they DO work for you then Congrats :) !!!!!! But that doesnt mean it'll work for everyone. P.S. "Hondatunerkid" you need to chill dude, not everyone is a car Genius ok, so cut the guy a break man. So what if he made a mistake. Hes human aint he (or she)

HARMON_RACING (author)2009-03-24

If your looking for an additive for your oil. go to any local Wal-Mart, or auto parts store and get the Zmax oil additive. It cleans up any deposites on your engine, and it actually does make a differance. They are completely worth the trip to the store. The price is worth the trip, and they have fuel additives as well. Using the fuel additive will clean out the injectors, increasing efficiency.

HARMON_RACING (author)2009-03-24

This step is not neccessarily true. All vehicles have a resistance sensor in the CPU. This sensor measures how much force is needed to turn the crankshaft to complete it's cycle.If you are towing, you need more power to get moving. The sensor will pick up on the lack of power to the wheels, and increase the FUEL in the cylinder to make up for this deficit. Using higher gears (even if your not towing or have any cargo) can imitate a heavy cargo load as well. So by putting it in a higher gear, you make the engine have to work harder to move the vehicle (just like if you were towing another vehicle, ect.). So in reality while you ARE turning fewer RPM's (Revolutions Per Minute) your actually using more gasoline to turn those RPM's. So really your better off putting it in Neutral and coasting to a stop.

HARMON_RACING (author)2009-03-24

hey "iwilltry" you must not know that no matter what you do to keep your engine warm, eventually it's going to cool down to a specified temperature. I mean what do you think the ENGINE COOLANT is for? Once your engine hits a certian temp. the fans behind the radiator will kick in, instantly stabalizing the temp. keeping it COOL. No matter what you do to keep it hot, the vehicle will automatically cool itself to attempt to prevent damage to the engine. Anything to prevent this automatic cooling process could potentially end in engine damage.

StarBlades (author)2008-12-16

dont buy synthetic oil.. its not a freaking race car ...waste of money

LinuxH4x0r (author)StarBlades2008-12-17

I know, I never do. People claim it saves gas, but is it even worth it?

StarBlades (author)LinuxH4x0r2008-12-17
no, its not worth it. yes it does save you gas, but not a lot. if you live in a place where gas is extremely expensive, then maybe. i have a few friends that are mechanics and i worked at their shop for a week. everytime someone said they wanted synthetic oil, they would all laugh and tell him its a waste of money.

The disadvantages of synthetic motor oils include:

  • Initial costs are usually two to four times greater than petroleum-based oils, though at one time, man-made oils cost ten times more than petroleum[citation needed]. Initial costs are often mitigated by extended change intervals, which individuals may confirm through used oil analysis (UOA).
  • The lower friction may make them unsuitable for break-in (i.e. the initial run-in period of the vehicle) where friction is desirable to cause wear. Improved engine part machining has made break-in less critical than it once was though. Many modern cars now come with synthetic oil as a factory fill.
  • Potential decomposition problems in certain chemical environments (industrial use dominantly)
  • Potential stress cracking of plastic components like POM (polyoxymethylene) in the presence of PAOs (polyalphaolefins).
  • Potential on some older pushrod race engines with roller lifters for the roller itself not to spin with camshaft movement, but rather slide while the roller itself remains either stationary or at a lower circumferential speed than that of the camshaft lobe


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