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7 Surprising Things That Affect Gas Mileage

Gas prices seem to be on a steady increase, so it's no surprise that people are always looking for ways to increase their fuel economy. Filling up your tank can be one of the most expensive parts of maintaining your vehicle, so you'll want to make sure you're doing everything you can to stretch your money and your gas as far as it will go.

You probably already know that using the air conditioning and heating systems can significantly affect gas mileage during the summer and winter months. Other factors, such as aerodynamics, the weight of the car, and the type of terrain can decrease your gas mileage in ways you might not have expected. Read on to find out how the little things can affect your gas mileage, and how reducing them can save you time, money, and precious gasoline.

1. Making several short trips.

If you take a quick trip to the grocery store, come home, unload your car, and then take another trip to school to pick up your kids, you're wasting gas. Starting the engine uses a significant amount of gasoline. Try to run all your errands in one round trip to maximize fuel efficiency.

2. Rolling the windows down.

This one may not seem like it would affect your car's fuel economy, but keeping the windows rolled down can reduce fuel efficiency. This applies more when the vehicle is traveling at high speeds. Wind noise and drag can create resistance, and high speeds cause a car to use more energy. The best speed for optimum fuel efficiency ranges from 40 to 55 miles per hour. Fuel economy starts to decline once you reach or travel faster than 60 miles per hour. Take it slow, and open the sunroof if you have one.

3. Excess weight.

It's always a good idea to keep a spare tire in the trunk. Any other excess weight, particularly heavy items, can weigh your car down and decrease gas mileage. Make sure to clean any unnecessary items out of your trunk and backseat to maximize your car's fuel economy. This can increase your fuel efficiency by as much as two percent.

4. Idling your car wastes gas

During those frigid winter months, many people like to crank up the heat for a few minutes before making their morning commute. Idling your car in almost any instance will waste gas, but running the heating at the same time will cause your gas gauge to fall at a more dramatic rate. Put on a coat or extra layer on those cold winter mornings, and turn up the heat after you've started driving.

5. Ski or roof racks.

If you drive an SUV and keep the ski rack on the roof all year, it will impact your gas mileage. Ski racks weigh your car down and put a strain on your tires, which will cause your car to use more fuel. Some ski racks may not be removable, and you may just have to live with it. But, if it is removable and you don't use it very often, consider taking it off and storing it to increase fuel efficiency.

6. Driving on hills, mountains, or uneven terrain.

Driving on a smooth paved road is a luxury not all of us have. Still, if you're an avid adventurer or you live out in the country, those hills and dirt roads are steadily eating away at your gas mileage. These cause resistance, which will require the car to use more gasoline. On your next adventure, try parking at the bottom of the mountain and making your way on foot if you're concerned about gas mileage.

7. Traffic Jams

No one likes being stuck in that infamous five o'clock jam, and some people may think it can't be helped. Being stuck in traffic takes a toll on your engine and your fuel economy. Constant braking and slow acceleration can drain your tank quicker than usual. Try taking a less populated route to and from work to avoid traffic congestion.

There are several factors that affect fuel efficiency, and some of them may not always be obvious even to the seasoned driver. The trick to maximizing your car's fuel efficiency is to be mindful of what causes your car to use more gas. Be proactive about keeping those things in check, and you'll enjoy the benefits of better gas mileage. Plus, you'll save yourself some money, time, and trips to the gas station. Another benefit of increased fuel efficiency is reducing your carbon footprint in a world that is rapidly changing due to carbon emissions.

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