Fuel Economy Fact and Fiction
Lots of people are looking for ways to get more miles out of every gallon of gas they buy. But this is when you need to bust myths and learn the truth. This article will separate fuel economy fact from fiction, so you know what really works.
FICTION: There are Mechanical Gadgets That Boost Mileage
This one requires a little bit of clarification. There are “plug-in” devices that give you better readouts than your dash displays about how you drive your car, and driving in specific ways can improve fuel economy. Anything that helps you focus on how you drive could help you improve your gas mileage. But then there are all these other devices that will supposedly improve your fuel economy by doing strange things such as using magnets to break up clumped fuel molecules, clamping ionizers to your spark plugs to increase combustion efficiency, plugging a device into the cigarette lighter to “smooth out noise” in the electrical system for greater efficiency, and things that are supposed to achieve a better mix of fuel and air. None of them work.
FICTION: Higher Octane Gasoline Improves Fuel Efficiency
Not so! There are usually three different octane levels at most gas stations, such as Regular, Plus, and Premium or something similar for corresponding octane ratings of 87, 89, and 93 (or anywhere from 90-93). All this octane rating means, according to the US Department of Energy is “…a fuel’s ability to resist ‘knocking’ or ‘pinging’ during combustion, caused by the air/fuel mixture detonating prematurely in the engine” (source). It has nothing to do with fuel economy.
FICTION: Manual Transmission Vehicles are More Fuel Efficient
This used to be true, but not anymore. The more recent technological advances in automatic transmissions has all but eliminated the difference in fuel economy between automatics and stick shifts.
FICTION: The Air Filter Affects Fuel Economy
This was true back in the days of carbureted engines, but is no longer true. In newer cars, the computer system automatically adjust the fuel-air ratio, and having a dirty air filter doesn’t change that. While changing the air filter won’t boost fuel economy, it does affect overall engine performance and longevity, which is why you should still do it at the recommended intervals.
FACT: Hypermiling Can Improve Fuel Economy
Yes, hypermiling is a thing. It’s a whole collection of techniques people use to significantly improve their fuel economy when driving. Most are relatively simple and work. A few a more controversial. Here’s a few of the most common hypermiling tactics: