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Better Pickup Fuel EconomyAre you tired of constantly filling up your pickup? Want better pickup fuel economy (MPG)? Here are 5 things you can do to skip the gas station more often.

1. Look Over Your Truck

The first step to improving pickup fuel economy is to simply look over your truck and really see what you have that might be impacting fuel economy. 

For example, a lift, big tires, under-inflated tires all add up to increased drag. It is simple physics really the more items you have impacted air flow, the more drag you will get and the more fuel it will take to get your pickup moving. 

Declutter your pickup and get it back to stock. This will quickly help your fuel economy.

2. Do a Tune Up

If your pickup fuel economy is worsening over a period of time, it is likely time for a tune up. Engines are simple devices that need fuel, fire and air to operate. Checking out all the components related to this could impact fuel economy.

Pop the hood and make sure you check out your spark plugs, air filter, oil and do a visual scan of everything. Look for anything that could use a change. Spark plugs are pretty cheap and easy to swap for new. Air filters are the same.

Also, check your tire pressure. Under-inflated tires require more energy (fuel) to make them go, so make sure each tire is filled to the recommended PSI.

If you do all of this and your truck still feels sluggish, try putting in a tank of premium fuel or using a fuel injector additive. As carbon builds up in the engine, it can reduce the efficiency of the engine. Using a higher octane fuel or additive will help clear out that carbon and improve fuel economy. You don’t need to use these items on every fill up, just once every few months should do the trick.

3. Slow Down and Drive Like Grandma

Another quick way to improve your pickup fuel economy is simply to slow down. This may sound odd, but physics don’t lie. The faster you make the truck go, the more fuel it takes and the worse mile per gallon you will see.

Here’s the real deal on this suggestion: you are driving a box on wheels. It is true, a pickup is one of the LEAST fuel efficient vehicles out there. The faster you push this box on wheels (i.e., the faster you try to go), the more wind resistance you will face and the more fuel you will use.

Changing your driving style then to treat it like a box on wheels instead of an indy car will result in easy improvements to fuel economy. For example:

  • Don’t burn rubber at green lights.
  • Brake lightly at stop lights and plan ahead to let the truck slow down naturally.
  • Gradually get up to speed after stop signs
  • Slow down on the interstates.

These are all good ways to improve fuel economy.

4. Hand Calculate Pickup Fuel Economy

If we had a nickel for every time someone said to us they were getting dramatically less fuel economy than the pickup was rated for we’d be rich. The reality is if you are getting 5+ MPG worse than the truck was rated for without any modifications, something is really wrong. 

Your first step is to hand calculate your fuel economy and compare it with the stated MPG. This is pretty simple to do and it is basically the miles driven on a tank of gas divided by how many gallons your tank holds. 

Next time you fill up, reset your trip odometer and then drive the truck to empty. Take the number of gallons you put in or the total number of gallons your tank holds and then divide it by the miles. This will give you an accurate MPG number for your truck.

Then, you can input your numbers into Fuelly.com and see how it stacks up with others.

5. Shop For a New Truck

Finally, if you have just had it with your pickup’s fuel economy, maybe it is time for a new truck. The reality is pickup fuel economy these days has dramatically improved. Years ago, you were lucky to get 12-14 MPG out of a pickup and now we have trucks like the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado with a diesel exceeding 31 MPG highway.

Better Pickup Fuel EconomyThis dramatic difference is do to many factors like lighter curb weights through advanced materials like aluminum or high-strength steel, more speeds in transmissions, more efficient engines and aerodynamic improvements in the design of trucks.

The fact is you don’t have to suffer with poor pickup fuel economy. There are many practical ways to improve it and hopefully one of these tips makes the difference in your pickup.

Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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