If you’ve found yourself filling up the tank more than usual, you might be wondering why. One of the main things that influence fuel economy is your vehicle’s aerodynamics, or how the air moves around your car.
Simply put, the more aerodynamic your vehicle, the better your gas mileage, even when you’re driving a notorious gas-guzzler like an SUV or truck. Fuel economy is nothing to sniff at, so it’s in your vehicle’s (and wallet’s) best interest to make sure your driving experience is aerodynamic as possible. Here are seven easy and inexpensive ways to boost your car’s aerodynamics.
1. Remove the Excess
In physics, drag is the force that acts in the opposite direction of a moving object to slow it down. With cars, drag increases with friction and wind resistance, which is why you should keep your vehicle as smooth as possible and your tires inflated the right amount. The more drag you have, the harder your engine has to work to keep going the desired speed, which decreases your fuel economy.
To decrease drag, you can start by removing the excess things that are trapping air in and around your vehicle’s body. Most car manufacturers design their models to be as aerodynamic as possible, so when you start adding things to your vehicle, you could be slowing it down inadvertently.
Things like roof racks, headache bars, bike racks, flags, and that adorable wreath you zip-tied to your car’s grill are all nice to have sometimes, but when they become permanent fixtures on your vehicle, they can hurt your gas mileage.
2. Lighten Up
Along those same lines, do whatever you can to lighten the load in your vehicle. Of course, you should always have your roadside emergency kit, but extra kitty litter, bags of dog food, and cases of bottled water just weigh your car down. You might be surprised by how much better your gas mileage is by simply clearing out all of that extra baggage.
3. Use the A/C
If you’re traveling more than 35 mph, you should roll up your vehicle’s windows and use the A/C instead. By having the windows down, you are giving the air lots of nooks and crannies to explore instead of giving it a straight shot over and around your vehicle. These detours slow down your car and require you to punch the gas to maintain a high speed. So as much as you like the wind blowing through your hair on a nice day, it’s best to roll the windows up when you’re cruising.
4. Check Your Tires
Your vehicle’s tires play a significant role in fuel economy and aerodynamics because they interact with both the road and the air moving under your vehicle. Underinflated tires create more contact with the road, generating more friction and drag, which forces your engine to work harder.
Additionally, narrower tires help improve aerodynamics because they interact less with the air flowing under the vehicle. Stop by our Cottonwood tire shop (or any of our 11 other retail locations) if narrower tires can help increase your fuel economy. An added benefit of narrow tires is that they can help you navigate better in the snow – something you definitely need during Utah winters.
5. Take a Look at Your Front Bumper
Your vehicle’s front bumper has a lot more to do with aerodynamics that you might think, so start off by making sure it’s in good working order. Any bumps or dings in your bumper can impact your gas mileage, so if miles of duct tape are what’s keeping it together, you might consider purchasing a new bumper altogether. If you do a lot of highway driving, a more aerodynamic front bumper may be a good investment for you.
Whether you’re replacing or upgrading your bumper, look at the air dam. Most vehicles have some kind of air dam, even if it’s very basic. It looks like a lip on the front, and it works to divert the air around your vehicle to help your car keep contact with the ground. Be aware that most front bumpers that come stock are aerodynamic enough, but if you’re looking to upgrade, be sure to do your research so that you get a bumper with an air dam that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing (not just the latter).
6. Use a Tonneau Cover for Your Truck
A tonneau cover goes over the bed of your truck, and it can significantly increase your fuel economy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hard or soft cover, but just having the cover in place boosts your truck’s aerodynamics. Some people believe that lowering the tailgate can help with fuel economy, but unfortunately that’s not the case – it’s much more efficient to keep the tailgate up and cover your truck bed whenever you can.
7. Keep It Clean
It can be difficult to keep your car clean in the winter because of all of that slush and rock salt, but by giving your vehicle a wash and wax every so often, you’re not only protecting the finish, but also keeping things smooth. The smoother your car’s finish, the more aerodynamic it is, even if it’s just tiny degrees. Hey, every bit helps!
There are a lot of little things that you can do to improve your vehicle’s aerodynamics and, therefore, increase your fuel economy. Stop by one of our Utah auto repair shops today to discuss how we can help you meet those goals.