I Want My MPG: 10 Myths About Fuel Economy

With gas prices consistently on the rise and drivers becoming more aware of the environmental impact as well as the impact fuel prices makes on our household budgets, Americans are more educated than ever in terms of fuel efficiency. That being said, there are some myths out there as to what actually helps improve fuel economy.

MYTH #1: YOU HAVE TO DRIVE A SMALL CAR TO GET GOOD FUEL ECONOMY

With advancements in hybrid drive-trains, diesel engines, direct fuel injection, low-rolling resistant tires, turbocharging, advanced transmissions, and aerodynamic designs, standard-size vehicles are now capable of being just as fuel efficient as compact cars. Of the new cars that came out in 2014, about half of the top 10 most fuel efficient vehicles (excluding electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles) were midsize or large cars and wagons.

MYTH #2: MANUAL TRANSMISSION VEHICLES GET BETTER FUEL ECONOMY THAN AUTOMATIC

Innovations in automatic transmissions have helped improve fuel efficiency to the point that automatic trans vehicles often get the same or better MPG than their manual counterparts.

MYTH #3: IT USES MORE FUEL TO START A CAR THAN TO LET IT IDLE

Modern fuel injected engines will crank over very efficiently, especially when already warmed up. It is recommended that you turn off your vehicle when parked to save gas as idling a vehicle can burn about a quarter to half a gallon of fuel per hour.

MYTH #4: VEHICLES NEED TO BE WARMED UP BEFORE DRIVING

Although this might be the case for older vehicles with carburetors, most modern cars can be driven within seconds of starting. The fastest way to warm up a vehicle is to drive it.

MYTH #5: FUEL ECONOMY DECREASES SIGNIFICANTLY AS A VEHICLE AGES

Fuel economy can be sustained using proper vehicle maintenance. The EPA has conducted tests on vehicles within the break-in period of a vehicle’s life and found that fuel efficiency actually improves over the first several years. Older cars that are 10 or even 15 years old will only see a small decrease in fuel economy if properly maintained.

MYTH #6: REPLACING YOUR AIR FILTER IMPROVES FUEL EFFICIENCY

This tip is true for carburetor engines, but modem fuel-injected engines have on-board computers that automatically adjust to the proper levels. A new air filter might improve engine performance, but it’s hard to say if it makes an impact in MPG.

MYTH #7: USE AFTERMARKET ADDITIVES TO IMPROVE FUEL EFFICIENCY

Tests have indicated that not only do aftermarket fuel additives have little or no impact on improving fuel efficiency, they may actually damage you engine and/or increase tailpipe emissions.

MYTH #8: EPA FUEL ESTIMATES ARE A GUARANTEE ON A VEHICLE’S MPG

The purpose of the EPA’s fuel economy estimates is to provide consumers with an average and unbiased format from which to purchase a fuel efficient vehicle. MPG will naturally go up and down depending on how you drive, road conditions, vehicle upkeep, fuel quality, and other variables. Additionally, the use of gasoline with 10% ethanol can decrease fuel economy by about 3%.

MYTH #9: ALL VEHICLES HAVE TO BE TESTED FOR FUEL ECONOMY

While most vehicles do have to be tested for their fuel efficiency but the EPA, heavy duty vehicles that exceed 8,500 lbs. such as commercial vehicles and heavy duty trucks like the Ford F250 / F350, Chevy/GMC 2500 / 3500, or RAM 2500 / 3500, have no official fuel economy rating. The EPA also does not test motorcycles or four wheel vehicles that aren’t legal for highway driving.

MYTH #10: PREMIUM FUEL IMPROVES FUEL ECONOMY

One way to save money at the pump is to not buy high octane fuel, unless your vehicle requires it. Higher octane fuel doesn’t improve your fuel economy and does little for your vehicle if it isn’t indicated in the manual.

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