The best way to save fuel, aside from purchasing a fuel efficient vehicle, is learning to improve fuel economy in your current vehicle by ‘fixing the nut behind the wheel.’ Minimizing fuel consumption takes work and knowing the quirks of your specific vehicle. Luckily, as the warmer months approach, fuel economy automatically improves (decreased warm up times, warmer air temps, etc.). But as warm borders on hot, we start using the air conditioning more often. Cranking up the A/C (or rolling down the windows) can impact your fuel economy (FE), though by how much is debatable and varies by vehicle. Overall, put windows down at lower speeds, and use A/C at higher speeds. (A good blog over the subject.) Anyway, here are some tips to keep in mind during warmer weather.
If your vehicle has a recirculation function, use it in conjunction with your A/C to cool your car down faster. This is known as MAX A/C, which counter-intuitively is more fuel efficient than regular A/C.
Once your car has cooled down to a comfortable level, with recirculation left on, power down your A/C for a while; turn the A/C back on when the air becomes noticeably warm again. Your A/C really does decrease your fuel economy by 1-5%…so use it sparingly!
In the parking lot, do not linger. Quickly find a parking spot and shut off your engine. Park a bit further out and avoid the hassle of searching for a spot up close. Or park in a central location and walk to nearby places (many stores are in strip malls). Walking is good for you anyway. Also, if you can, park somewhere in the shade to keep your car cool. A shade tree or the side of a building may help. Next, put up a sun shade to reflect light away from your windshield. No need to bake your car’s interior and require more A/C use.
Next, if you’re going inside, bring everyone in the car with you. Leaving a car on with the A/C cranked in the parking lot gets you ZERO mpg and may put your vehicle at risk for overheating. If they don’t want to shop (who wants to buy more clothes on a sweltering hot day?), find them a bench in the already air conditioned building.
Also, try to run errands in the morning or late evening when it might be just a little bit cooler.
Finally, these tips apply for any time of the year:
- Coast as much as possible (downhill, yellow/red light, traffic)
- Learn your routes and your stoplights (figure out light patterns)
- Anticipate lights changing.
- Run your errands with the furthest destination first, working your way back home.
- Keep your tires properly inflated. (Do not go beyond Max Sidewall Pressure on tire!! And keep in mind that temperature changes effect your PSI)
- In general, drive like your brake and gas pedals are hot as lava. Use them sparingly. Learn how well your vehicle coasts.