Save fuel: 7 tips to save money and save the earth

Read time: 8 mins

Your car takes from your wallet, how to keep more of that money for yourself? Save fuel with these 7 simple car maintenance tips and you'll immediately see the benefits on your gas bill all while helping to protect the environment.

There are cheaper and more eco friendly ways to get around like a bike, a skateboard, or a carbon-neutral pony. But for now, you’re on four wheels. Keep an eye on these key areas of your vehicle and you'll be able to improve fuel efficiency starting today.

1. Obey the Engine Light to Save Fuel

When it is time for a tune-up, take your car in as soon as possible. Modern vehicles are designed to run for around 120,000 miles without care, so when it is time for care it’s worth investing in since you'll save fuel.

According to the EPA (2011b), ‘‘fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emission test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%, and if it is a serious problem, like a faulty oxygen sensor, efficiency can be improved by 40%! Following our same estimations of price and mpg, that comes out to a savings of up to $215/year, and 2400 pounds of CO2!

2. Use a Block Heater for Better Gas Mileage

There is no need to hurl your engine from zero to action. Preheating the engine with a block heater allows you to save fuel by 15% on trips of less than 20 km, according to study conducted in the winter of 2008 by CAA-Québec, saving you around $100/year, and keeping 900 pounds of CO2 in the ground.

There are several varieties of block engines, circulating and non, and each comes with its own pros and cons for efficiency. Ask your local mechanic which variety would be best for your particular car.

3. Fuel Efficiency = Filter the Air

Though we don’t hear much about air filters, replacing one when needed can improve your fuel economy by 10%, which is pretty significant. With the same estimates of 40 mpg and gas at $2.50, that’s a savings of about $70/year, and 600 lbs of CO2. Air flows through filters to mix with gasoline, from which a spark ignites and the wheels move forward. Poor filtration can result in debris and additional matter mixing with the air and gasoline, creating more work for the engine, and thus a higher expenditure of gasoline and lower MPG.

It is recommended to change your air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, and certain driving conditions like dusty roads can make even more frequent changes necessary. An easy rule of thumb for knowing whether or not it’s time to replace a filter is to check whether you can see light when looking through it. If so, you’re in the clear. You can also consult your manual for recommended mileage between replacements.

If you intend to change the filter yourself, make sure you have the correct model name, engine size, and part number of the required filter, as well as tools such as a wrench and a Phillips head screwdriver. If you are in doubt, visit an expert to get the job done well. Proper maintenance of air filtration ensures that you save fuel, money and the environment.

4. Save Fuel by Reducing Your Load

Storage is super useful when you’re actually using it. When you’re not, take that thing off your roof!

You’ll be saving about 2% to 8% in city driving, 6% to 17% on the highway, and 10% to 25% at interstate speeds (65 mph to 75 mph). That means saving between $68 to $150/year, and 60-150 lbs of CO2! Not too shabby.

Logically, anything that creates drag is inefficient, and while other factors like wind affect the amount of drag created, rear-mount cargo boxes or trays reduce fuel economy by much less—only 1% or 2% in city driving and 1% to 5% on the highway.

Even storing extra stuff inside your vehicle is not a great idea, with an average of 2% reduction in efficiency for every 100lb of weight, and an even greater reduction in small vehicles.

5. Better Car Mileage with Low Rolling Resistance Tires

Keeping your tires in line takes fuel. The less rolling resistance tires have, the less energy is needed to overcome that resistance. Similarly, the thinner the tread on the tire is, the less energy they require to get moving. As deep tread deforms while rolling, more resistance builds up, requiring greater energy to overcome it.

Thanks to the U.S. government’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandate passed in 2009, most lines of vehicle manufacturers include low rolling resistance tires to achieve the required fuel efficiency.

According to Tire Review, approximately 60% of fuel efficiency is gained from the tread design and compounding, while the other 40% is gained by the casing components themselves. They continue to say that in the past, a tire’s gains in efficiency thanks to reduced tread would often be accompanied by a tradeoff in performance in another area. However, more recent developments in smart tire manufacturing have yielded tires that maintain nearly identical performance while still achieving less roll resistance.

The percentage of fuel efficiency that is specifically attributable to rolling resistance changes depending on your driving context. Overcoming total resistance to movement is a product of several factors, all of which play a role in fuel economy. In city driving with frequent stops and starts, rolling resistance comprises 15% of overall resistance. In steady-state highway driving, though, rolling resistance comprises a much larger 25% of total resistance.

How much does this save you? By decreasing roll resistance 10% with low resistance tires, you can increase fuel efficiency by about 2%, which can save about $15 a year driving an average of 12,000 miles at 40 mpg. At about 20 pounds of CO2 per gallon of gasoline, that is a savings of about 117 lbs of CO2 per year! Check out this article for more information on the calculations of savings.

Go to your local mechanic today, or your car dealership, and see which brand of low resistance tires suits your car best. If you are interested in reading further, check out this series of articles by the company Tire Rack, as well as the studies they ran comparing different brands’ to save fuel.

6. Lower Fuel Consumption by Checking Your Air Pressure

Just as important as the kinds of tires you use is the amount of pressure inside of them. Tires naturally lose pressure on a regular basis, and as a result, experts estimate that about 25% of cars on the road are driving on under-inflated tires. The price of under-inflation is a %1 fuel reduction for every 3 PSI (pounds per square inch) of pressure under the recommended level, saving you a cent on every gallon. For example, if a vehicle requires inflation of 35 PSI, a drop of inflation to 28 PSI will result in a 2.5% reduction in fuel efficiency. A 2.5% increase in fuel economy for a car with an estimated 40 mpg, achieves a savings of about $20/ year. In terms of global warming, you are keeping 150 lbs of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

At least once a month, make sure your tires are as full as they need to be to so you can save fuel. To know what your car’s recommended PSI is, check on the tire itself, or else on the edge of the car door or doorframe.

7. Oil Up that Eco Friendly Car

When aiming for fuel efficiency, low viscosity engine oils are considered to be significant contributors to achieving that goal. Viscosity is a fluid’s resistance to flow. Lower viscosity oil reduces friction, improves efficiency, and thus increases fuel economy. By purchasing the right kind of motor oil, you can improve gas mileage by 1-2%, which is a pretty sweet deal for something you have to buy anyways! To give some real world examples, a 1% increase in fuel economy for a car with an estimated 40 mpg, low viscosity oil achieves a savings of about $8/ year. In terms of global warming, you are keeping 60 lbs of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

To make the best purchase you can, check for the phrase “Energy Conserving” on the label, which is your guarantee of friction-reducing additives that keep things running smoothly.

Your car’s engine prefers a certain kind of oil to run at its best, so get it what it wants.

Check your owner’s manual to see what quality and viscosity are best for your vehicle, and be sure to change your oil at the regularly recommended intervals to preserve optimal fuel economy. Newer engines have better finishes that prevent engine wear from occurring as a result of lower viscosity oils. However, an older engine without as tight a tolerance or as high a surface finish is more susceptible to wear, and therefore is best used with the recommended conventional oil. Engines that will be exposed to extreme temperatures are also better off with standard oil viscosity.

And of course, make sure that the oil you select meets the standards of the American Petroleum Institute (API), as well as the API's latest service standard, "SL." Look for the starburst mark on the label that lets you know whether the standards are indeed met.

If you want to go the extra mile, get a biodegradable oil that is safely disposable, like this one!


Sources and Further Reading


You will save the Earth by sharing and/or tweeting (corny right?)

Now everyone can fight climate change. Join the community because together our small changes can make a huge impact.

Sign up and we'll send you free updates on concrete actions that you can take to fight climate change today!

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.