The key to cutting down your gas bill isn't driving less. It's getting better gas mileage when you are driving. And the really astonishing thing: You can actually get better performance at the same time.
There are several changes you can make to improve your gas mileage. Some of these modifications have to do with aerodynamics. Other changes have to do with your engine and exhaust system. And still others have to do with your tires.
Let's start on the outside, with aerodynamics. Automakers spend a lot of time in the wind tunnel testing vehicles to improve their coefficient of drag--i.e., to lessen their wind resistance. That's because it takes power to push something big like a car or truck through the air. It literally has to push aside all the air that's in front of it as it moves down the road.
If you're like me and dive a pick up truck, you typically can make the biggest gains when it comes to aerodynamics. That's because air flows into a pickup's bed and runs smack into the tailgate, causing a lot of resistance. To reduce wind resistance, you can drive around with your tailgate down, as some people do. Or you can remove your solid metal tailgate and replace it with a tailgate net, so the air can flow right on through. An air gate operates under the same principle, but it's made from metal tubing or mesh, instead of vinyl netting. Another option is to install a tonneau cover or a truck cap. Not only do these products smooth the airflow over your bed, they also can provide lots of secure storage space.
I wouldn't waste my money on spoilers and ground effects kits. Although these products originally were designed to improve aerodynamics on race cars, many will make your vehicle look racy rather than reducing wind resistance.
Your tires are another story. Smaller, narrower tires wouldn't be as safe because they produce less friction against the pavement and determine how much control you have when it's time to steer or brake. However, if your tires are running low on air, they're pulling money out of your pocket. That's because tires that are underinflated reduce fuel economy--and they also wear out faster.
Also, if you make your engine more efficient, it will produce more power and get better gas mileage at the same time. Here's how it works: An engine that burns 90 percent of the air and fuel mixture is much more efficient than one that burns 60 percent. It therefore will make more power from the same amount of fuel--because what isn't burned in the combustion process becomes waste and gets sent out your tailpipe. So, a more efficient engine is not only more powerful, it gets better fuel economy.
One way you can make an engine more efficient is to improve the spark to your engine, so it burns the air and fuel mixture better. You also can make a motor more efficient by reducing internal friction, so it doesn't have to work as hard. One way to reduce friction within an engine is to run a high-quality--or synthetic--motor oil.
High-quality oil control products, like a good oil pan and a windage tray, also make an engine's life easier. That's because the crankshaft at the bottom of your engine is spinning incredibly fast. It sits right above the oil pan, which is where oil returns to after it has lubricated your engine. If the oil keeps splashing back up onto the crankshaft, it's harder for the crankshaft to turn. It's kind of like taking a walk on the beach: It's pretty easy to walk on the wet sand at the edge of the water, but if you try to walk through the water, it takes a lot more energy. Any time you can conserve your engine's energy, it takes less fuel to power your vehicle.
Lots of other performance products can improve an engine's performance and fuel economy, too, including a high-flow intake system and a free-flowing exhaust. It's easy to understand why improvements to the intake system help: If you've ever tried drinking a really thick milkshake through a straw, you know how hard it can be to pull that fluid through an opening that's too restrictive. Your engine may be feeling the same way about incoming air.Exhaust system changes work pretty much the same way: If your engine is trying to force its spent gases out through an opening that's too small, it's wasting energy. Plus, if there's too much backpressure, some exhaust may remain inside your engine, which means there isn't as much room for fresh air and fuel to be burned, so you're making less power.
About the Author:
A number of modifications can improve your fuel economy. I recommend starting with a louvered 5th wheel tail gate. And if you have big tires, add aftermarket fender flares from Bushwacker. You could get a ticket if your wheels protrude out of your wheel well. -Mike Rosania