How to get more MPG from your car

In times of high petrol prices I know there are lots of people who want to know how can I get more MPG (miles per gallon) from my car and make my fuel go further.

This is called hypermiling.

Hopefully this guide will give you an overview of how to get more mpg by using some of the simple techniques I use on a regular basis get more mpg from my car, but before I go on you are probably asking what credentials I have on getting more miles per gallon from my cars.

Well here’s how I started Hypermiling.

For 7 years I owned a Japanese Import Subaru Forester, a blindingly quick dog carrying 4×4’esk estate car and for 6 of those I honestly didn’t care about my MPG. However for the last year of ownership my mileage went from 3500 miles a year to 15,000 and my attitude to my MPG went from “Couldn’t care less” to “This is serious and I need get more from my gallon” especially as at the time the price for Super Unleaded peaked at £1.42 a litre!!

So I started making serious records of my mileage and my MPG and with a few simple techniques I went from 20mpg to 36mpg and remember this is a modified 320bhp+ automatic Subaru.

So how to get more MPG from my car?

Eventually in 2012 I changed my car, I didn’t want to but 32mpg at £1.40 per litre and doing 15000 miles (that’s nearly £3000 a year on fuel), also my Subaru was 15 year old car and the mileage was getting too much for her. So, I bought a brand new diesel Mercedes B-class and was hoping to cut my fuel bills in half as the claimed manufacturers MPG figures were quite high at 78mpg on an extra-urban cycle.

Initial results however were disappointing with me only managing high 50mpg’s in motorway driving and low 40’s in urban cycles (albeit still better than my Subaru) but within 6 months I was regularly getting low 70mpg’s on the motorway and mid 50’s round town, thus more than halving my annual fuel costs.

Now after 2 years of ownership and 30,000 miles I regularly get 80+mpg on a long drive with this car. I recently drove 796miles over a 2 day period from Macclesfield to Penzance and back to Macclesfield, with about 80 miles extra round Penzance, Pendeen and Lands end. During this trip I used 43.2 litres (9.5 UK gallons) of fuel and this equates to 83.79 mpg. This is despite my car being auto (some say this is bad for mpg) and also having 18 inch alloys and stupid run flat tyres.

I also own a Brabus Smart and regularly get 60mpg+ from this little petrol car as well and most of the mileage is done on the hills and peaks around East Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

So how did I achieve this?


Slow down

Slow down and get more MPGFirst off and most importantly you need to slow down.

“What do you mean slow down?”

Well, I mean that you need to slow down your driving style, you need to stick to the speed limits, stop doing banzai overtaking manoeuvres and even drive slower on the motorway.

My girlfriend makes fun of me sometimes because I drive to the speed limits in town and on the motorway but I typically get better MPG out of my Mercedes E-class than she does from her VW UP!

Typically I’ve found that driving slower at around 60mph will increase my MPG quite a fair amount. As much as 10-20mpg over 70mph. There is a limit as to how much you can slow down though especially on the motorway as anything under 55mph can be dangerous as other road users might not share our enthusiasm for getting better MPG from your car especially the lorry drivers who’d have to overtake you. On A and B roads however if you slow down and stick to the limits you will see your MPG on open country roads go up.

Typically I stick to the speed limits on A and B roads and I stick to about 65mph on the motorway.


Anticipate

You need to be aware of what’s going on around you and this doesn’t just mean while your trying to get better MPG, I mean in general when your driving.

If you coming up to a junction and all the traffic is slowing down, then ease off the gas long before you get there and coast to a stop, rather than drive up to the back of the queue and then slam the brakes on.

Also when you driving cross country anticipate the traffic at junctions, coast to the junction and anticipate if you can pull out from the junction without coming to a stop.

I am aware this isn’t always possible but anticipating the road ahead can work wonders for the next category, be smooth. I’ve even driven back to Macclesfield from Sheffield and not touched the brakes once.


Be smooth

This is as equally as important as keeping your speed down and anticipation.

On my Mercedes it has a display for how efficient your driving style is and one of the meters shows smooth driving. This is affected in one of 3 ways.

  1. Acceleration
  2. Smooth driving
  3. Coasting

Most of this you can achieve by anticipating what is going on around you. You don’t want to have to accelerate hard (see below), brake hard or even corner hard as all these things can affect your MPG.


Don’t accelerate/brake hard

Dont accelerate hard and get more MPGThis is one of the biggest causes of fuel use in your car as unnecessarily hard acceleration can cause your MPG to plummet as you use more fuel accelerating and this effect is increased if you run the engine into the higher rev bands. Keep the acceleration smooth and constant, don’t push the accelerator to the floor (unless you need to for safety or overtaking) and pull away in a smooth controlled manner while changing gear at lower engine RPM’s. I use 2000rpm in my diesel and 3000rpm in my petrol car as a guide.

If you need to overtake then this is of course where you run the risk of increasing your MPG but if you have to accelerate smoothly but with enough vigour to complete the movement in a safe manner then get back in after the overtake and allow the car to coast back to the speed limit in a controlled manner.

Also try not to accelerate too fast so that you have to brake hard as well as this is equally as bad as accelerating hard as hard braking is a great way to turn your fuel into heat and brake dust!

Hard cornering should also be avoided as hard corning again is putting extra load on your tyres which increases friction which will reduce your overall fuel consumption.


Coasting

This is one of the things I don’t practise unless the road is empty in front of me as I don’t always feel comfortable doing it. Some might also say it’s not that effective with today’s engines which sip fuel when driving downhill.

I sort of agree but on a trip back from Glasgow I spent a lot of time coasting as we drove down the M6 and at one point my economy gauge showed 92mpg, over the entire journey I managed 82mpg and this was with 4 people in the car, two dogs in the rear and a roof box full of luggage. Maybe I had the wind behind me that particular day!

There are two types of coasting, the first one I practise and the second I don’t.

The first method involves taking your foot off the accelerator as you drive down hills and allow the car to run down the hill under inertia and gravity while the engine and gearbox are still engaged with each other.

The second method is as above but means disconnecting the drive from the gearbox and effectively putting the car in neutral as you roll down the hill.

The first method you are effectively still in control of the car and to accelerate away from a hazard needs only for you to press the loud pedal and your away. The second method requires an additional input of re-engaging the gearbox before drive can be restored. Many motoring organisations do not endorse the second coasting method and neither do I but some hyper milers love this technique.


Got an economy gauge? Use it.

100% efficient driving means you get more MPGIf your car dash board has an economy gauge or MPG display use it. It will seriously help you with your MPG, I know in some cars the MPG display jumps about all over the place as it calculates MPG on a second by second basis of your journey and other give you an average mpg over the entire journey.

Both of these gauges will give you a good idea of your driving style at that particular time, good or bad. A low figure = bad, a high figure is good.

The latest Mercedes software has a graph mode which plots your MPG based on an average and displays a bar in a graph form every 5 minutes. You know your getting good MPG when all the lines are equal and around 60mpg.


Use Cruise control

If you’ve got it use it. But beware, it is a robotised system which is designed to either maintain a speed or maintain a distance (depending on cruise control type) and it will not always be the most efficient as climbing up hills the car will speed up to maintain a speed.

However, having said this, cruise control is a more efficient way of maintaining a speed than your foot alone. On a long drive especially – if you’re driving long distance it can be very tiring trying to maintain a set speed by foot control alone and your attention can wonder and speeds increase.


Lighten the load

If you’re one of those people who have a boot/trunk full of stuff then empty it out. Weight is the enemy of good MPG and that’s why little cars get more mpg than larger cars. Empty anything unnecessary from the car to make it lighter and therefore more efficient.

This also goes for roof bars, Cycle carriers and any of the other miscellaneous crap you might have strapped to your car.

The other items below are for those who want to be really frugal and maybe eek out a few more MPG after they’ve done all the above.


Eco tyres

Some of the tyre manufacturers now offer tyres purely designed to be more economical than standard tyres and these offer special compounds which offer less rolling resistance than standard tyres. Before I went for something like this though I would want to know if they also offer less grip in the wet and affect braking distances, if they increase your stopping distance then I don’t want them on my car.

All tyres now should be advertised with an EU regulation for Economy, Noise and wet ratings. The economy chart is based on the same type of ratings system you might see on a new electrical appliance with A rating being good and G being bad.


A clean/polished car

Yes even having a clean car can help with your MPG. By how much is debatable but one hyper miler I spoke to recommended keeping your car clean and polished as, and I quote “A polished surface offers less air resistance than an unpolished surface” You can debate this in the comments below. Personally I keep my car pretty clean anyway so how clean does it have to be to give better MPG and how dirty does your car have to be before it reduces your fuel economy?


Air Con off / Windows Closed.

Now with this one I am with folk when they say, “Air con is a drain on your engine” and also “Open windows increase drag” but please show some common sense with these two. If its really hot or cold then you need cooling or heating also if your sat in traffic an open window isn’t going to affect the drag and ultimately the MPG on your car.


Servicing

Your car needs to be serviced regularly and not having things like the oil changed can affect your MPG but more importantly can be detrimental to your vehicle if its not changed. Even between services you should make sure things like the oil levels are correct, water levels in the cooling system are correct and even the amount of air in your tyres is correct. All of these factors might not matter very much on their own but as a collective of items might help you get more MPG over the lifetime of your car.


Fuel

This is a contentious issue as there are many different retailers of fuels and many different grades of fuels out there, particularly on the petrol market.

In the UK we have Regular Unleaded which is 95 RON and Super Unleaded which is either 98 or 99 RON. Other countries have different rates of fuel.

In my diesel car I use regular diesel but went through a phase of using V-power diesel but the only difference I could notice was in my wallet as it definitely emptied quicker. It may have increased my MPG by a 1 or 2 mpg but overall I noticed no difference and I keep very comprehensive records of my usage.


Fuel Saving gadgets

These are the gadgets you see which plug into the cigarette lighter, or powerful magnets which wrap around the fuel lines. Personally I don’t see any of these things helping get better MPG and theres are plenty of videos on YouTube debunking these gadgets.

That’s it for my hyper mileage article, why not let me know what your best MPG is and the car your doing it in?


More?

Find out more about how to get more MPG on these websites.

How to hypermile – http://www.lifehacker.co.uk/2014/06/26/hypermile-driving-secrets-max-petrol-mileage

Hypermiler.co.uk – http://www.hypermiler.co.uk/hypermiling/hypermiling-techniques

If you have any more techniques, practises or products which will help you get more MPG then please let me know in the comments below.

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One thought on “How to get more MPG from your car

  1. I’ve been doing almost all these things for ages by the use of something I only acquired a few years ago, called maturity!

    Very good Mike – a great article. Pregnant with useful stuff which cannot be argued with.

    As a matter of interest, a few years ago after I’d moved here from Hertfordshire I teamed up with a friend down there – he designed stuff and I sold it. Problem – he was in Dunstable, I was here. I used to get behind a large vehicle on the A5 and slipstream as much of the journey as was possible. Not on a motorway – too fast and therefore unsafe. On the A5 most of the journey was slow enough to remain safe whilst doing it. Where it got over 40 mph I didn’t do it. Can’t remember what price petrol was (this was early 1990s) but it cost be £10 per journey from Dunstable to here.

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