Let’s face it: fuel prices continually bob up and down, but gas is never cheap. There are many factors that can affect how much fuel your vehicle uses, which directly affects your pocketbook. With the advent of warmer weather, there are even more expenses associated with summer vacations to the beach, hosting outdoor parties, and higher electric bills to cope with the ever-running air conditioning.
You may not, however, be aware that there is a link between hot weather and your vehicle’s fuel usage. This is due largely to using the A/C more, but rolling your windows down also has a negative effect on your vehicle’s fuel economy.
Here are some tips to keep your gas costs as low as possible as the temperature rises:
Change your cooling method according to your speed. No one wants to “fry” in their own sweat while driving, so simply halting your A/C use and keeping your windows rolled up tightly is not an option. You can, however, choose more wisely which cooling method to use and when. Since the drag produced from having your windows down (which, in turn, reduces fuel efficiency) is far less at low speeds than high ones, roll your windows down for leisurely drives and turn your air conditioning on when you hit the highway.
Put a reflective panel on your dashboard when parked. Although it may seem like a waste of time to unfold a sunshade and put it in your front window every time you stop at the grocery store, this simple act does wonders for keeping temperatures cool inside your vehicle. Parking in shade or under covered areas achieves a similar effect. This translates into far less fuel-powered cooling work for your A/C system when you return to the car.
Let hot air out before drawing cool air in. When you first get into your car in the summer months, crack your windows to let the stagnant, hot air out and let the temperature in the car naturally equalize with the temperature outside. Then, roll the windows back up and turn the air conditioning on. That way, the A/C doesn’t use as much gas for the initial cooling of your vehicle.
Be judicious with your air conditioning use in general. Even if you enjoy ice-cold temperatures, save that treat for walk-in freezers or ice baths. Honestly assess what is the warmest interior temperature you can comfortably handle, and set your air conditioning to that level. It may be warmer than you’re used to, but the gas it saves will quickly add up.
These tips may seem too simple to be effective, but incorporating them into your hot-weather driving routine can take a chunk out of your fuel bill over time. If, after using these methods, your gas costs seem unusually high and you’re driving no more than normal, an inspection with one of our mechanics can rule out problems that may be affecting your fuel efficiency beyond just the summer heat.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Get the Best Fuel Economy in Hot Weather and was authored by Elan McAfee.