Bad Gas Mileage or Lack of Common Sense?

2014 Toyota RAV4

I have a family member who doesn’t know anything about cars. I mean that quite literally, so the fact that she routinely sits behind the wheel of one is more than a little frightening.

Allow me to correct myself: This is a person who knows one thing about cars. She knows that they go. She knows how to make them go, how to make them “not go” (her words for stop) and how to get them to go in the general direction of her choosing.

So when this family member asked why her Toyota RAV4 was taking more gas than usual, I didn’t know exactly how to answer or what questions to ask. So I took it step by step.

I asked, in this order:

Me: “How many gallons do you usually put in the tank?”

Her: “Until it stops.”

Oh boy.

Me: “Okay, how much does it usually cost you?”

Her: “About $45 I think. It just seems like the gas doesn’t last as long.”

Me: “Have you changed anything about your commute? Do you drive more often or farther than you used to?'”

Hey, I wouldn’t put it past her…

Her: “No.”

Me: “Do you let the car sit and idle?”

Her: “Idle?”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Me: “Do you start the car, then go back inside to let it warm up?”

Her: “Yes!”

Getting there!

Me: “Okay, that’s part of it. How about your driving style. Any drag racing or fast acceleration?”

Her: “No!”

I think I offended her.

Me: “Cool. When’s the last time you checked your tire pressure?”

Her: “How do I do that?”

Palm. Forehead. Smack.

Me: “I’ll show you. Follow me.”

I checked the tires, found them to be 5-10 pounds low. Got out the air compressor.

Me: “There you go. That’ll help.”

Her: “Really?”

Me: “Yes.”

I didn’t want to explain the importance of properly inflated tires.

Me: “Keep in mind, it’s winter, there’s lots of snow, it’s cold, you let your car run, you had low tire pressure… all of those things will decrease miles per gallon.”

She nodded. I think she might have understood…

Me: “It’s probably worth taking it in for an oil change and new air filter. That’ll help, too.”

She thanked me and went about her day.

Gas mileage can definitely suffer in the winter, so make sure you’re doing all you can to maximize your efficiency. If you don’t know how, contact you nearest CarGuru and ask for help. Just try to keep some common sense when you do!

How do you improve fuel economy in the winter?


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