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Getting Better Fuel Mileage


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Keeping up with what's happening in the RV world is a priority for any RV devotee as is keeping abreast of the latest tricks and techniques that will help keep a trip going in the most pleasant fashion possible. And it's always good to talk things out with others in similar circumstances - it helps to clarify perspectives and identifies alternative approaches to whatever life may bring. Sometimes it just helps to read about the experiences of others for enjoyment because you may go that way too someday.


Getting Better Fuel Mileage
Any tips for getting better mileage during these days of higher than necessary fuel prices are helpful. The three major impacts on mileage are the way you drive, the weather conditions, and your vehicle conditions. The following are a few tips that will help you save fuel. The mileage observations mentioned below were measured using a ScanGuage II on a 2005 Ford 6.8L V-10 F-53 chassis. Your results will likely vary.

Driving Habits
  • Drive at a slower speed and maintain even pressure on the throttle. Driving at 55-60MPH can save as much as 1mpg over driving 65-70mph.
  • Accelerate gradually, both from a stop and when entering freeway traffic. Avoid rapid acceleration to save fuel.
  • Let your engine slow you down whenever possible and brake smoothly, avoiding fast stops. Rapid braking wastes fuel, cuts down your mileage, and adds wear on your brakes.
  • Maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicles ahead and anticipate traffic conditions so that braking is less necessary.
  • Use cruise control when driving on long stretches of flat open road to maintain your speed within the most fuel-efficient gear.
  • However, cruise control can work against you on hills where it wants to push the throttle to maintain speed or down shift to a lower gear to make the hill, both increasing your speed and your fuel use. Disengage the cruise control and let the speed fall back until about 55mph or some safe speed that avoids creating a slow moving traffic hazard and then shift to a lower gear. The difference in mileage using cruise control to down shift going up a hill to maintain speed (3.8mpg on a Ford V-10) and slowing to 55MPH without down shifting (5.3mpg) is noticeable.
  • Although some engines burn very little fuel while idling (0.86GPH for Ford 6.8L V-10), it's probably best to shut the engine off when the RV sits for more than a few minutes if it is gasoline powered. Diesel motors need to obtain and maintain a working temperature.

Weather and Road Conditions
  • Winds have a substantial affect on increasing or reducing the vehicle's moving resistance. Headwinds can take 1mpg or more away and tail winds can add 1mpg or more. Be aware of the weather forecast on your day of travel and choose the time of least winds to be on the road.
  • Cooler temperatures and moist air will provide better fuel mileage than warmer temperatures and dry air, so driving early in the morning is better than driving in the afternoon. Most modern vehicles have an intake air temperature sensor that helps the on board computer calculate the fuel air mixture, but cooler air is better.
  • Higher altitudes can reduce power and thus fuel mileage for non turbo/super charged engines. It's really more a case of mountain driving than simply high altitudes. More power is needed to climb steep grades and less oxygen is available so there is less power so the vehicle down shifts to a lower gear and thus more fuel is burned. But you get some of that back when you coast down hill.
  • Gain a little speed going down a hill to reduce engine workload going up the next hill. Most motorhomes and tow vehicles will get further up a hill starting at 65MPH than at 60MPH, for example.
  • Using downhill momentum, rather than applying the accelerator, to build speed back up can trigger what's called Deceleration Fuel Cut Off or DFCO. DFCO will reduce or cut off fuel to the engine until the accelerator is pressed or some lower engine speed is reached. This condition appears as 99.9MPG on the Scan Gauge and 99MPG on a Honda CRV, for example. Some vehicles enter DFCO faster if cruise control is turned off.

Vehicle Condition
  • Regularly check the air pressure in all tires when the tires are cool. Proper inflation reduces the incidence of tire failure and improves fuel mileage.
  • Following the recommended service and maintenance schedules keeps your RV in top running condition and saves fuel. A poorly tuned engine can lower fuel economy by 10 to 20 percent. All modern engines have computer(s) controlling various parts of the drive train to maximize performance, so keeping injectors and sensors clean helps a lot.
  • Consistently use the grade/weight of motor oil recommended by the manufacturer. Synthetic, blend or natural is fine, but many swear by their choice so do a little research.
  • A clean air filter allows your engine to breath better, significantly improving fuel economy.
  • Watch your weight for safety and mileage. The chart below shows the weight of various fluids that RVs commonly carry. Multiply the capacity of your various holding tanks and fuel tanks by the appropriate weight to determine the potential weight being carried. For example, a 50 gallon fuel tank filled with gasoline will weigh 300 pounds. A 50 gallon fresh water filled with water will weigh over 400 pounds. Only fill the tanks to a level needed for the trip and you will save fuel. If you dry camp and need lots of fresh water, wait as long as you can before filling the fresh water tank to save on fuel.
  • Many RVs have total holding tank capacities of 80 gallons or more, which means they can contain over 640 pounds of wastewater when full. Empty the gray and black holding tanks if possible before taking to the road to save some fuel.
  • Check your storage compartments and remove items that you will not be using while on the road. Every pound of unnecessary weight you carry decreases fuel mileage and puts wear and tear on your tires. Keep in mind that everything you put in your RV weighs something and the more weight you carry the less fuel mileage you will get.

Weights of Fluids Carried In RVs
FluidWeight
Water8.3 pounds/gallon
Gasoline6 pounds/gallon
Diesel fuel6.6 pounds/gallon
Propane4.5 pounds/gallon