How to stretch the gas budget? | Fuel Tips

By Staff Writer
Jul 26, 2022 | Sunoco, Fuel Tips, Sponsored Content, gasoline, Fuel Facts | Posted in News and Notes | From the Aug. 2022 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Engin Akyurt/Unsplash

Sponsored content presented by Sunoco.

As fuel prices continue to go up, up, up, we’ve been hearing a common question: How can I save at the pump? 

Instead of looking for a silver bullet that’s bigger on hype than science–the latest fuel savers touted online somehow, magically, only need to be plugged into your cigarette lighter–start with the basics, suggests Zachary J. Santner, senior specialist of quality at Sunoco.

First, he says, drive with an eye on economy: windows up to improve aero efficiency, junk out of the car to decrease weight, and tires properly inflated to reduce drag. Running a non-ethanol fuel will yield more mpg, he adds, but the price of premium might cancel the gains found on the road. 

Next, take some time to make sure the engine is operating at peak efficiency, he continues. Are your air and fuel filters clean? Ignition components at proper spec? Is the engine running at its ideal temperature, or do you have a cooling system issue? Are you using the oil recommended in the owner’s manual? 

What else can you do? Ensure that your fuel system is clean, Santner says. Running a Top Tier fuel will minimize internal engine deposits, significantly reducing the crud that can collect in injectors and on the backs of the intake valves.

What about tossing some fuel system cleaner down the filler? Well, not all cleaners are not created equal. Most contain a detergent and/or a solvent–see if the safety data sheets shine any light–and Santner notes that a detergent is more effective than a solvent. Picture a drop of dish soap dispersing the oil from a frying pan versus soaking dirty engine parts in a bucket of solvent. 

To help your research and shopping, he shares two popular, effective fuel system detergents: PEA (polyether-amine) and PIBA (polyisobutylene amine). Solvents–not as effective but very popular in the marketplace–contain various petroleum distillates, things closely related to toluene, kerosene, naphtha and isopropyl alcohol. 

Why don’t all fuel system cleaners favor detergents over solvents? Well, those detergents cost more to produce.

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Defined motorsports
Defined motorsports SuperDork
6/29/22 11:09 a.m.

always wondered if filling up in the colder hours of the day yields more gas when the temp rises and the gas expands. 

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
6/29/22 11:32 a.m.
Defined motorsports said:

always wondered if filling up in the colder hours of the day yields more gas when the temp rises and the gas expands. 

I've seen that recommendation somewhere. 

oldrotarydriver Reader
6/29/22 12:44 p.m.

With bulk storage tanks underground, the fuel temperature won't change much, if at all.  You can argue the point that a "hot" tanker truck load will *lower* the density of the fuel in the tank, but that'll cool off in a day or so.  

No, the only appreciable issue with cold fuels, is excessively topping off a vehicle that would be driven down the block and parked on a hot street.  You *could* encounter a situation where liquid fuel is forced into evaporative emissions equipment, as the fuel in the tank warms up and expands.  Not very likely, but possible.


StuntmanMike New Reader
6/29/22 12:45 p.m.

In reply to Defined motorsports :

No because the tanks are underground and mostly unaffected by daily air temp changed.

RadBarchetta New Reader
6/29/22 1:10 p.m.

The single best way to save gas... and I know we all hate to hear it... is to slow down.

The last time gas prices went bonkers back in 2008 or so, I was driving a 97 Ram 1500. By changing my driving habits (using some hypermiling techniques) I went from a 12mpg average to 18. A 50% increase. 

I'm daily driving an ND Miata now, and was getting 30mpg on average. By limiting my highway speed to 70mph and using higher gears in the city, I'm now running 37, a 23% increase in fuel economy. 

No amount of tire pressure tweaks or time-of-day fueling hacks is going to reap that kind of benefit. I can't wait until prices come down a bit more so I can go back to hooning, but for now, it's slow and steady wins the race.

Mndsm MegaDork
6/29/22 1:16 p.m.

My tip isn't really a tip at all - abuse Amazon. Use their gas. Jeff bezos sells literally anything you can come up with, and prime is 120$/yr or whatever. I've largely moved to having everything shipped to me because my jeep gets E36 M3 mpg. 

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
6/29/22 2:14 p.m.

I'm getting 42-43 on my commute but a lot of it is less than 60 mph.

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/29/22 2:27 p.m.

My trick is situation-dependent, but when I can I get someone else to pay for my gas.  A couple of weeks ago I managed to schedule a work trip from my house to a client site near DC to coincide with a biking gathering with my friends in the area.  The 58.5 cents/mile (plus tolls) more than paid for my gas bill for the month.

I'm hoping to finagle a similar trip next week up to Mass and ride at a bike park on the way home. 

Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter)
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/29/22 5:38 p.m.

Slow down is the only one that makes a real noticeable difference.  I know for a short time about two decades ago I (practiced non annoying to other road users), hypermiling after complaining I couldn't get more than 25mpg out of my new ZX3 Focus.  Well after everyone told me it was my driving I started driving conservatively, then really trying, then practicing hypermiling, then getting good at it.  In the space of about a month I went from 25mpg, to 29-30, then up to best of around 33mpg.  I then got bored stiff and went back to my normal driving style because life is too short to spend another 30 seconds on my daily commute for the sake of a few gallons of gas. 

The other thing, other than daily driving, is freeway speed.  Living in Michigan that means the left lane on a 70mpH freeway rolls along at 75mph, and if you're not doing 85, don't so much as think about getting in the right hand lane.  But as drag increases with the cube of speed, slowing back down from 85+ to a firm 70 can make a massive difference, like 5mpg or more.

Right now it's immaterial as the Volvo is still down with a broken driveshaft so I'm driving the Tesla model S from work instead.  It might be saving me an absolute minimum of $6 a day in gas, but its still not worth it, I'd rather have fun and put gas in.  

Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos)
Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/29/22 5:45 p.m.

Remove your roof racks/kayak/bicycle holders and all that jazz unless you need them.

Defined motorsports
Defined motorsports SuperDork
6/29/22 9:01 p.m.

Fuel saving tip-

Budget "fuel" under "recreation". Now you get to have fun, AND drive. 

chaparral Dork
6/29/22 10:12 p.m.

The only way to save money and gasoline at the same time is to switch from your car to a motorcycle you already own. If 50 million Americans switched from 25 mpg cars to 50 mpg motorcycles, we'd save 10% of the gasoline we burn.

So why haven't I seen "new summer, new helmet" posts all over Facebook?

In reply to chaparral :

This. My FR-S is fairly efficient at high-20's mpg in the city, but either of my go-to bikes produces 55 mpg in the same conditions, and is more fun! Most days all I need to carry is laptop, shoes to change into, and lunch, so with the weather of lately, motorcycle it is!

Chrissmith New Reader
6/30/22 1:41 a.m.

It's a shame that most people don't feel safe biking to work on our streets.

Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos)
Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/30/22 3:18 p.m.

In reply to Chrissmith :

The last time I biked on the stroads near my house, I was hit by a car. I've nearly been hit by a car while walking: the hot new thing is to rapidly pull into a crosswalk, look to the left for cars when making a right turn, but NOT to look to the right, because nobody walks on sidewalks anymore, ever, right, and if they don't see any oncoming cars, just make keep moving.

It's not that I don't feel safe, it's been proven that I am NOT safe. 

trucke SuperDork
6/30/22 3:42 p.m.

No hypermiling techniques in the article?  Glad we have GRMers to share those ideas.  They work!  This morning on my way to work after fill-up.  Yes, it does say 51.6 mpg.


A whee bit of hypermiling, but mainly no traffic to hinder my lackadaisical pace!  Once I hit traffic, it drops.  So far averaging 36.7 mpg since new (3,400+ miles).  The Si is even geared lower than the rest of the Civic line.

infernosg Reader
6/30/22 4:12 p.m.

Easy. Slow down. I slowed my highway cruising speed by 4 mi/hr and gained 2-3 mi/gal in our Ford Flex. I've managed 17 mi/gal in my Silverado towing my RX7 on a UHaul trailer through the mountains of western NC. An added benefit is I've found long distance driving to be less stressful when I'm one of the slower vehicles on the road. I just sit in the right lane and let the faster cars deal with getting around me.

Peabody MegaDork
6/30/22 4:55 p.m.

If it hasn't already been mentioned, use your cruise control every chance you get. You're not nearly as good at maintaining speed as you think you are and when the computer has total control it does a much better job of optimizing the air, fuel, and timing for fuel economy. You can even use it to maintain even and repeatable acceleration. Also, pump up those tires.

dxman92 Dork
7/2/22 1:12 a.m.

If on the highway, I try to stay in the 60-65 mph range and throw cruise control on asap.

hybridmomentspass Dork
7/2/22 8:33 p.m.

Im a speedlimit guy on the highway, have been for a long time. If Im going 12 miles away, for example, Im not REALLY going to get there much sooner by going 72 vs 65/66.

Also, speaking of MPG - I THINK it was Mythbusters that figured out that at higher speed (think highway), it's better for mpg to run ac vs the windows down due to aero drag. Maybe Im way off.


Two questions:

I heard that it's better to keep your tank 1/2+ full, yes or no?

Also - how much does a clean car help over a dirty car. Im not talking caked on mud, but if the car is a big 'slicker' would it provide any noticeable benefit?

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/3/22 7:11 p.m.

In reply to hybridmomentspass :

Surface quality (cleanliness) will lower your Cd.  So yes it helps.  I don't think the gas tank level matters but running out is quite miserable.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/3/22 8:41 p.m.

I have noticed that my Volvo gets best fuel economy at about 75mph but only if I am careful to conserve momentum.  Every time you touch the brakes you are wasting fuel.  Every time you slow down because the dingbat in the center lane is driving with their cruise control on and you have to coast down to get behind them to pass a slow truck, you are wasting fuel.

I also do not use the cruise control.  I drive via the manifold gauge.  I accelerate gently going downhill so that I can slowly bleed that speed off going uphill keeping manifold pressure below 5" of vacuum.  If I used the cruise control then it would coast downhill then run 5-6psi boost going up the next hill.  That costs more fuel than gets saved by running in deceleration fuel cut going downhill.

If there is too much traffic to drive like this, I just park a respectful distance behind a tractor-trailer.  It's nicer to just pick a time to drive when there is less traffic.

The car is rated at 18/24 city/highway.  With these tactics I have seen 32+mpg highway.  Not bad for an all wheel drive, 4000lb 300hp turbo tank on gumball tires.  With an automatic trans.


For my next trick:  I have been averaging about 29mpg driving a mostly stock '81 RX-7... 

livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/26/22 2:03 p.m.

I am glad to see there are others who feel the pain of the high prices as much as i do. Not that i wish anyone the misery imposed on us all but its nice to know the suffering is fairly universal.

My 05 subie wagon in local driving which includes a mix of highway and city driving, manages to get around 28-29 with no special efforts made and is my most economical car to drive at this point. If I employ some hyper miling techniques I have been able to bump that number up to about 33 which is a considerable help with its 15.9 gal tank. By combining trips and avoiding joy rides I'm making a tank of fuel go a couple of weeks, while not much fun, it is saving me some money.

I'm looking forward to seeing prices ease enough that i can start driving the wrx some more. We arent there yet though

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
7/26/22 2:20 p.m.

Not for everyone but i work from home and the company reimburses me for my mileage to the airport. Then it's rental car gas from there. 

but it's lonely. 

bobzilla MegaDork
7/26/22 3:14 p.m.

I've been hyper-miling the Rio. Aerage 40.9Mpg over 190 miles of daily driving. Using the engine as my brakes, easing into the gas, slower speeds etc. 

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/26/22 3:22 p.m.

I'm still averaging just over 43 mpg in my 2018 Civic Si over the last 2000 miles.  

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
7/26/22 3:29 p.m.

I'd also echo the use other peoples gas comment.  Join Walmart+ and get same day grocery delivery. It'll save you time and money. 

bobzilla MegaDork
7/26/22 4:20 p.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) :

I can't do that with mine. Track use kinda kills that average.

twowheeled Reader
7/26/22 6:38 p.m.

Driving a 2009 kia sedona minivan, trying the usual things like tire pressure and slowing down. Here's something eye opening I didn't expect.

1st tank  - 60mph cruise, 22mpg on a calm day.

2nd tank - some clown in a lifted f-350 pulling a camper doing 80mph so I tucked in behind him for 200 miles. 29mpg to that tank. 

APEowner GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/26/22 6:46 p.m.

I towed my trailer to lunch and back because I didn't want to take the time to unhook it and hook it back up.  I don't think I'm the target audience for this article.

Datsun310Guy MegaDork
7/26/22 8:21 p.m.

I say we lock this thread down and get back to burning MORE gasoline.



andy_b New Reader
7/26/22 8:39 p.m.

Deep into page 2 and no mention of swapping horsepower for man power?  Hop on a bicycle instead!  It's probably the most energy efficient form of transportation devised by humanity.

livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand Reader
1/9/23 6:30 p.m.
infernosg said:

Easy. Slow down. I slowed my highway cruising speed by 4 mi/hr and gained 2-3 mi/gal in our Ford Flex. I've managed 17 mi/gal in my Silverado towing my RX7 on a UHaul trailer through the mountains of western NC. An added benefit is I've found long distance driving to be less stressful when I'm one of the slower vehicles on the road. I just sit in the right lane and let the faster cars deal with getting around me.

This has proven to be my best plan for a low stress road  trip. I don't worry about speeding tickets because Im going slow enough I'll never get one. The fools rushing past me get the tickets. Still have to watch out for stupid drivers or overly aggressive ones, but slowing down to the speed limit saves fuel and stress on a long drive. And yeah it takes a little longer to get there but I'm less tired when I finally do arrive. It seems counter intuitive but it works for me.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
1/9/23 11:44 p.m.
andy_b said:

Deep into page 2 and no mention of swapping horsepower for man power?  Hop on a bicycle instead!  It's probably the most energy efficient form of transportation devised by humanity.

Not probably, it is the most efficient form of transportation devised by mankind.  That said it's not the safest because "muh get off my roads."  I've even seen that very sentiment echoed here.  I'd ride more if my commute were much shorter.  In Dallas the #1 reason I did not was personal safety.  Unless you live somewhere that is bike friendly, you are risking way too much to ride a bike IMO. 

mr2peak Dork
1/10/23 12:43 a.m.

Turn the boost down. Instead of running 18psi, run 12.

Of course, this means more time between the corners so your foot is down for longer, so maybe it's a wash. Run 25psi instead?

twowheeled Reader
1/10/23 1:19 a.m.

For this time of year, a block heater makes a big difference. Wife's car went from 16 to 20mpg since she started plugging in and the wifi plug lets it run 3 hours each morning.

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