How to Increase Fuel Efficiency While Towing
No matter what you’re driving or how far you’re going, you want to get good mileage. Better fuel efficiency will mean fewer stops and less money spent on gas. When you need to tow something, though, maintaining fuel efficiency can be a bit of a challenge.
Some Americans spend upwards of $1,300 a year on fuel, and frequent towing will increase that amount. Extra weight forces your engine to work harder to go the same speed. You can’t avoid some mileage limitations when towing, but you can ease the burden.
If you plan and drive carefully, towing doesn’t have to consume as much fuel as you’d think. Follow these steps to increase fuel efficiency when towing.
Plan Your Route With Efficiency in Mind
Your fuel savings can start before you pack up and set out on the road. When you’re planning your trip, consider fuel efficiency. Both the time you drive and the route you take can impact how much gas you use.
If at all possible, avoid high-traffic zones, either by timing or taking different routes. If you get stuck in traffic, you’ll idle, which wastes fuel. A large sedan will go through 0.39 gallons of gas an hour while idling, and trucks use even more.
If you go too far out of the way to dodge traffic, you may use more fuel, given the longer distance. As a result, timing your drive to avoid rush hour may be a better option. While you’re planning, check the weather, since rain and high winds could reduce your mileage.
Take It Slowly
Some people make the mistake of driving fast to try saving on fuel. On the surface, it makes sense, as faster speeds mean less time on the road. However, consider engine performance, which drops at higher speeds.
Most American vehicles reach peak efficiency between 50 and 60 mph, slower than typical highway speeds. You can lose as much as 20 mpg when you drive 80 mph or faster. You don’t need to go 10 miles below the limit the whole way, but avoid speeding to increase fuel efficiency.
Maintaining a consistent speed also helps, so use cruise control wherever you can. Your acceleration rate also affects your fuel efficiency, so don’t take off every time the light turns green. Accelerate slowly, allowing your engine to keep up with what you’re telling it instead of wasting fuel.
Consider What and How You Load
You should also pay attention to your trailer, and more importantly, what’s in it. Packing as light as possible will help you reduce resistance and improve mileage. Sometimes you can’t control your haul’s weight, but you can control how you load it.
If you’re using an open trailer, make sure it’s as streamlined as possible to reduce wind resistance. When you’re towing equipment, for example, lower every accessory you can, keeping everything compact and level. Securing any loose bits won’t only improve safety, but it’ll also make sure your trailer is as aerodynamic as possible.
You may also want to think about the type of trailer you use. If your trailer is much taller than your vehicle, it can create pockets of wind resistance. Choosing a shorter one or installing a wind deflector on your car can help avoid this.
Keep up With Maintenance
Finally, one of the essential steps you can take to improve mileage while towing is proper vehicle maintenance. Letting even tiny things slide can limit your fuel efficiency. If you don’t keep up with these, pay attention to them before you leave.
Change your oil regularly and use your manufacturer’s recommended oil grade. While you’re at it, have a professional take a look at your engine and perform any needed repairs. Small fixes, like oil changes, improve mileage by 1 to 2%, but something like replacing a faulty oxygen sensor can have a 40% improvement.
Before you tow anything, make sure to fully inflate all your tires, both on your car and your trailer. Your trailer doesn’t have as many mechanical parts as your vehicle, but it needs maintenance, too. Make sure any moving parts are well-lubricated and there are no large dents, which could impact wind resistance.
Towing Doesn’t Have to Ruin Your Mileage
No matter what you do, your mileage when towing won’t be as good as when you drive your car without a heavy load behind it. Still, following these steps can help you make the most of these limitations. When you tow anything, it will be hard to increase fuel efficiency, but it may not be as much as you think.
You can follow these steps to improve your efficiency without a trailer, too. Whatever your driving situation is, these guidelines will increase your mileage. You can then go where you want with all your gear, without spending as much money.
About the Author
Automotive enthusiast, passionate about Jeeps, hot-rods, turbos, performance, efficiency, diesels, fuels, high performance oils, additives and anything with an engine.