5 surprising things that can hurt your gas mileage

As gas prices have reached dizzying heights in the last few months, we’ve all started to pay more attention to our mileage, and looked for ways to alleviate the pain at the pump. The demand for electric vehicles has never been higher, but they’re not a viable option for everyone. 

If you drive a car that runs on gas, there are a few surprising things that can impact your fuel efficiency—and making some relatively small changes can help maximize it. Here are some mileage killers, and a few ways you can make each tank go further.

  1. Making lots of separate trips

Each time you start your car, it runs more efficiently once it reaches its ‘warmed up’ running temperature. So if you have to run 3 or 4 different errands in a day, and you leave and come back home, and park the car long enough for it to cool down a bit  in between each one, that’s not ideal.

Instead, it can be very beneficial to carefully plan your driving and consolidate your routes. If you try to make all of your stops while you’re already out driving (and when your engine is already warm) that will save you some mpgs.

  1. Running the heater

Using the heater in your car can burn more gas than just leaving your vents open without heat. The heater uses air that’s already been heated as a byproduct of the engine running, so that part of the process doesn’t impact mileage. What does affect it is the blowing of air into the cabin—that takes more electricity, which in a car means burning gas to generate it. The same goes for seat heaters.

While neither the heater or seat heaters will have a major impact on mileage, simply putting on a coat or layering up are simple alternatives that can help maximize your fuel efficiency.

  1. Tires that aren’t properly inflated

Tires are, of course, ‘where the rubber meets the road’ and they’re the place where most of your car’s energy goes. So if they’re underinflated, your car is going to have more rolling resistance—requiring your car to use more energy to turn them—than if your tires are properly inflated. So regularly checking your tire pressure, and keeping your tires inflated to your car manufacturer’s recommended PSI, can help maximize your mileage.

Underinflated tires also wear unevenly, which ultimately means they need to be replaced sooner. So making sure they’re properly inflated not only helps your mileage, it can extend the life of your tires too!

  1. Driving aggressively or unevenly

Driving fast, and the rush of acceleration—while definitely fun—can have a massive impact on your mileage. It can lower your mileage by as much as 33%. Driving at high speeds can also essentially amount to as much as .25 more per gallon for every 5 miles per hour over 50mph. Granted, the speed limit is 65 on most highways, and you certainly shouldn’t drive slower than that. But if you drive 75 miles per hour instead of 65, for example, you are in effect increasing your gas costs by $.75 per gallon!

Driving in a rough or jerky way can also hurt your mileage. If you accelerate hard and brake hard, you’re going to drastically decrease your miles per gallon. Instead, focusing on driving smoothly—and not too quickly—can go a long way toward helping maximize each tank of gas. 

  1. Carrying around unnecessary weight

Cars are heavy, but even relatively small amounts of additional weight can have an impact on gas consumption, especially for smaller cars. Each 100 pounds of weight can reduce your mileage by as much as 2%. 

If you happen to be lugging around any literal junk in your trunk, it might be time to change that. Taking out everything that you don’t absolutely need to have in the car can help you get better mileage. So if you’ve been lugging some heavy tools around, or a couple of kettlebells, take ‘em out. If you have a least favorite family member, consider leaving them at home. (No, we’re kidding about that last part—please don’t abandon anyone in order to save gas!)

All of the above can have minor to moderate impact on your mileage. Individually, some of them aren’t that consequential. But if you try to be conscious of each one, and make a few changes, they can add up to some significant improvements in your car’s fuel efficiency. Which can mean saving substantial money on gas every month.

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