You’ve done your homework, selected and purchased your fuel-efficient vehicle, but you still aren’t achieving the levels of fuel efficiency that you were hoping for. Technical statistics and data can appear daunting, and it’s understandable that you may feel overwhelmed at this point. Don’t worry. Here are five simple, but important, areas that you can focus on to maximize your car’s fuel efficiency.

Perform Regular Maintenance

This first step may seem obvious, but just as you regularly go to the doctor to maintain your health, your car also needs regular trips to the mechanic to make sure that everything is working as it should. Adhere to the service intervals provided by the manufacturer as well as any onboard maintenance tracking system that your vehicle may have. Clean air, fuel and oil filters all increase the performance of the motor. Lower levels of resistance to the flow through the filters means the vehicle doesn’t have to work as hard to perform.

When changing your oil, only use the proper type. Most modern cars need low-viscosity, semi-synthetic or fully synthetic oil. These oils are already designed with fuel efficiency in mind and, by helping conserve energy use, will effectively lower the fuel consumption rate.

Not only is oil important, but the gasoline that you choose is as well. Only use the grade recommended by the car manufacturer for your specific model. AAA has recommended the use of TOP TIER™ brands of gasoline. These brands have been developed in conjunction with auto manufacturers to have higher detergent properties, which assist with keeping engines free from deposit buildup. A clean engine runs more efficiently.

Five tips to maximize fuel efficiency
Monitor Your Driving Habits

Rapid acceleration, speeding, sharp braking and other forms of aggressive driving all significantly reduce fuel efficiency. Studies have shown a negative impact on fuel consumption of up to 40% with these driving habits, not to mention the added consequences should you be involved in an accident. Simply following the posted speed limit can provide a benefit of as much as 14% as fuel economy standards show maximum fuel efficiency at 50 mph.

If you’re driving a manual transmission, there is another layer to consider when it comes to speed and gears. The sweet spot for fuel efficiency entails a low rpm but a throttle that is more open than closed. Friction is the key here as well; a wide-open throttle means that the engine isn’t working hard to draw in air, and lower rpms mean that there is less resistance from the pistons rubbing on the walls of the cylinders. The right combination allows maximal control over the fuel efficiency in a manual transmission.

It’s not just the manner in which you drive that can affect your fuel consumption, either. What you carry, and how you carry it, also impacts fuel efficiency significantly. Rooftop cargo racks, and other obstructions, create air resistance, outside of the aerodynamically designed body of the vehicle, and increase drag causing the vehicle to use more power, and more fuel, to do the same work. Similarly, each pound of payload or cargo increases the rate of fuel consumption as well. Removing unneeded weight from your vehicle will help reduce gas use and increase fuel efficiency.

Five tips to maximize fuel efficiency
Reduce Engine Idle Time

The average vehicle burns through between one quarter and one half of a gallon of gas for every hour spent idling. Modern engines do not need to warm up prior to being driven through the neighborhood, and they will have sufficiently warmed up for highway/interstate driving by the time you reach those roadways. If you live in extremely cold climates, purchasing an engine block heater is a viable option that would allow you to warm the engine block sufficiently without having to turn on the car or truck.

If you purchased a model that has an engine start-stop feature, that will also help conserve fuel. Most engines use approximately 10 seconds worth of fuel to start. If you are stopping for more than one minute, the engine start-stop feature can quickly add up to savings in fuel for your vehicle and also cash for your pocket.

Drive Smarter

While not true driving habits, there are a number of tactics you can use to help conserve fuel as well. Make sure to check your tire pressure frequently, at least once per month. Properly filled tires create less resistance and, therefore, increase fuel efficiency. You should also use high-speed toll lanes when they are available; removing the need to slow down and then reaccelerate helps improve fuel economy.

In a similar manner, the proper use of cruise control can also help in saving on gas. While hilly, winding or mountainous terrain is not ideal for cruise control use, reasonably flat areas of road are perfect for cruise control to assist you with maintaining your speed and thereby reducing any tendency to randomly decelerate and then accelerate, burning excess fuel.

Another technique is forgoing the air conditioning and opening up the windows. Air conditioning uses a lot of fuel to cool the air and keep it moving throughout the car. Also, paying attention to where you park your vehicle can help save on air conditioning use in hotter climates as well. Taking care to park in the shade, or at least avoiding direct sunlight, will keep the interior temperature lower and use less power to cool off once you start back up again.

Open windows will almost always result in the use of less fuel when compared to air conditioning. It’s important to remember, however, that those same open windows increase the drag on the vehicle as well. If you can comfortably keep the windows closed, and any climate control off, that will provide the maximum savings in fuel efficiency.

Five tips to maximize fuel efficiency
Plan Ahead

Instead of making individual trips to different locations, try and plan a route where you can accomplish multiple errands in one trip. Better yet, head to a mall or shopping center where you can walk between stores and conserve that fuel entirely. While it may not always be possible, avoiding rush hour traffic during your commute to work or running errands will also increase your fuel efficiency. Less traffic means a smoother trip, fewer instances of congestion and less time idling.

Planning ahead doesn’t apply only to your schedule, either. Instead of trying to beat those traffic signals or get ahead of other traffic, settle into a rhythm that allows you to comfortably accelerate and decelerate, even coasting to a stop when it’s a safe option. That saves not only on fuel consumption but will help reduce wear and tear on your vehicle as well.

Any of these tips, taken alone, will certainly increase the fuel efficiency of any vehicle, but you can realize significantly increased results by combining several, or ideally all, of them. Making safe driving a part of your daily routine not only reduces fuel consumption but also lowers your risk of a car accident or receiving costly traffic fines. One cardinal rule rises above all others when you are trying to maximize fuel efficiency: slow down.