I spoke with Dave about this in the hallway and with the price of gas and diesel being up, I wanted to share some of the techniques that work for all cars and trucks, not just hybrids:
1) air filter change after 'yellow season' - now that the season is over, it is a good idea to change the air filter to get rid of the pine pollen, dust and insects from last year. Alternatively, take the filter into the house and use a vacuum hose to suck out the crud. I'm not a fan of the oil-screen filters since they require careful oiling to make sure the oil doesn't crud-up the air flow sensor but some people like them.
2) winter oil change and level - now that we're away from cooler, water condensing weather, change the oil and put in a new filter BUT fill only to 3/4 of the way from the "E" to "F" level. Overfilling the engine puts extra stress on the internal parts as they splash away at the excess oil and this reduces engine efficiency. A good multi-grade oil is the best approach with a quality filter. Look at what happened to my mileage at 40 mph
when I drained an extra quart of oil found in my engine:
3) tire pressure - at the rim of the tire is the maximum tire pressure and on the door jam is the 'recommended' tire pressure. Find the highest pressure for a comfortable ride between these two points. The following URL shows how tire pressure relates to rolling drag:
BTW, my tires, steel belted radials, seem to grip better at higher pressures and I take turns at faster speeds. Top off the tires every two months regardless of whether or not they need it.
4) highway speeds - we're finding that 65 mph
seems to be close to the edge of "the knee" for many cars in the MPH
vs MPG curve. It is vehicle specific but if you can, try to use 65 mph
on the highway. Slicker cars can go 70 without too much trouble but under 70 mph
will always be better.
One trick I use is to follow a truck at a _SAFE_ distance, I don't draft, ever because there is too much road debris and you won't have time to steer around it. I like to use a slow moving truck as a 'pace car' so following traffic will see the truck and smoothly pass without riding your bumper.
5) tire alignment - many cars don't have a rear wheel alignment procedure but there are shims that can be used. I find the best result comes from having zero toe, the inward pointing angle, on the rear wheels and minimum camber, the side angle to help the outside tire handle turning loads. If you'll bring your alignment printout sheet by after having the tires rotated, we can talk about the options but rear wheel toe is the enemy of fuel efficiency.
6) There are a bunch of other tricks like predictive braking and terrain driving but these can be distracting and cause "backseat drivers" to make rude comments. If you are driving solo, predictive braking means slowing down well before a traffic light so you have the maximum amount of time to coast up to the light with some momentum and not have to come to a complete stop. If the light changes in time and you don't have to come to a complete stop, you win at the pump.
7) Terrain driving means climbing a hill at the slowest safe speed at the crest and after the crest, not on the crest, letting gravity help acceleration on the downgrade. Think "roller coaster" velocity profile and you've got the right idea BUT safety first. I love to follow heavy semi-trailer trucks up a hill since again, it provides 'cover' for the slower speed.
8) I also back-in to park since that means when I start on the next trip, I can easily see any traffic and pedestrians and time starting the car to minimize having to come to a stop on the way out of the parking lot.
9) For the first 1-2 miles, I like to keep the speed at neighborhood speeds, ~25-30 mph
, as the engine warms up. Once it has warmed enough, ordinary driving works much better but avoid putting a big load on the engine while it is still warming the coolant.
10) I don't have a 10th recommendation since we're starting to get into the marginal areas. If you are a 'neat freek,' don't carry anything extra in the car. If clean is queen, wash it. Spark plugs don't last forever and throttle linkages and plates can get dirty. PVC valves can get plugged and Rain-X means you won't have to use the windshield washers as much. A clean cabin filter can also minimize pollen reactions. Make sure the defroster is not on by accident and avoid AC if you can without risking health or passenger complaints.