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Myths vs. Realities of Fuel Efficiency

Fuel Efficiency Myths

We've written plenty of posts about fuel efficiency since we kicked off the PumpTalk blog seven years back. But something we haven't really addressed are some of the "fuel saving myths" that have found their way into popular culture over the years.

I thought we'd post a round up of our favourite fuel efficiency myths below, to set the record straight on how to achieve optimum fuel efficiency for your vehicle.

Myth: The smaller the vehicle, the better the fuel efficiency.

Reality: Size still matters but with recent advances in new car technologies and lighter manufacturing materials, some of today's larger vehicles do just as well as smaller ones when it comes to fuel economy

Myth: Over-inflating your tires will increase your car's fuel efficiency.

Reality: Tires do have a key role to play in fuel efficiency; in fact, every five pounds per square inch (psi) of tire pressure you lose can translate into a two per cent loss of gas mileage. But over-inflating the tires merely reduces the handling of your car and can make for a bumpier ride. Plus, with over-full tire, you could risk bursting your tires. Instead, check your tires montly to make sure they are always inflated to the recommended pressure.

Check our Tire Inflation post for tips on keeping tabs on your tire pressure.

Myth: Filling your tires with nitrogen gas instead of compressed air makes for better fuel efficiency.

Reality: The tires on commercial aircraft and high-performance race cars do benefit from filling up with pure nitrogen, as using nitrogen makes it easier to predict a tire's performance in extreme temperatures. But filling your tires with nitrogen doesn't have much of an impact on your sedan. Fuel efficiency depends on maintaining the right air pressure in your tires; if your tires are inflated properly, then you're good to go.

Myth: Cruise control ALWAYS saves fuel.

Reality: It's true that driving at a consistent speed and avoiding sudden acceleration and braking can help increase fuel efficiency. So in that sense, cruise control wins…on flat terrain. When you're driving in a hilly area, using cruise control can cause your vehicle to accelerate faster that it would if you were anticipating the hill and changing your speed accordingly. So definitely use the cruise, but don't be a slave to it - particularly in mountainous terrain!

Myth: Shifting into neutral when driving downhill cuts down on fuel consumption.

Reality: The thinking behind this particular myth is that if you shift into neutral and "coast" down a hill, the fuel supply is cut off and your car stops using gas. But the reality is that in modern vehicles, only the fuel delivery system shuts off; your car is still using gas, the way it does when you're idling your vehicle. So, no net increase in fuel efficiency there.

Myth: Drafting off of big trucks helps use less fuel.

Reality: The concept of drafting is scientifically accurate and it sure works well in cycling and speed skating but it's extremely dangerous to do it on the road. It's not worth risking your safety and the safety of others to save what would likely be a few pennies.

Myth: Gas Saving Gadget X will help you save on fuel!

Reality: Engine ionizers, fuel line magnets, after-market fuel additives; we all want to save on fuel but none of these gas saving gadgets have proven that they have any significant impact on fuel consumption.

In the end, there are no magical tricks to save on gas. But there are some tried and true changes you can make to your maintenance schedule and driving style that will help you increase your vehicle's fuel efficiency. For the best ways to save on fuel, check out our Ways to Save on Fuel infographic.

Have you heard of any other fuel saving myths in your quest to save on fuel? Leave them in the comments!

- Rose R.

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