Dan Peterson Vice President Technical Development
Dan Peterson
Vice President
Technical Development

Synthetic lubricants deliver maximum fuel efficiency.

Accurately measuring fuel-economy gains, however is extremely difficult.

I have a confession to make: I am on my way to becoming a grouchy old man. Not the type who is grouchy with people, just with situations that make me feel helpless. One of these situations happens every two weeks while shelling out a fortune for gas at the pump. I understand that the early symptoms of “grouchy-old-man syndrome” start at age 50 and appear as incoherent mumbling at the gas pump when the receipt comes out. “Forty-nine bucks to fill this little tank! Someone should go to jail.” I think we all struggle with putting so much money into gasoline or diesel fuel every month, but it is a reality we face.

Still, we want some level of control over our financial lives, so many of us look for ways to reduce fuel consumption and regain some control. In fact, one of the reasons people choose to buy AMSOIL products is for the fuel-economy benefits. So how do you verify that you are enjoying fuel economy benefits from any product or technology? Everyone probably does it a little differently.

The important inputs for fuel economy are the number of miles traveled and the amount of fuel used. One common method is to record how many miles you drove between fill ups. If you record the amount of fuel you put in the vehicle when you fill up and the amount of miles driven since the last fill up, you get a rough idea of fuel economy by dividing the trip miles by the gallons pumped into the tank - assuming you filled the tank to the brim at the last fill up. There are variables that affect this calculation – the ability to fill to the same level each time the accuracy of the meter on the pump, the octane value of the fuel going into the vehicle, the ethanol content of the fuel, etc. All affect the recorded amount of fuel you use. An alternative method is using the fuel mileage gauge on your vehicle. With this method, you can actually measure fuel-economy differences affected by driving routines on the same tank of fuel.

Another big variable affecting the amount of fuel consumed is driving conditions. We all know that non-hybrid vehicles get much better fuel economy in highway driving compared to city driving. It takes a lot of fuel to start a vehicle and get it going from a dead stop. So when you examine fuel economy on your last tank of fuel, do you count the number of times you stopped and started the vehicle in city driving to make sure it was equal to the last tank of fuel? What about the number of hills? Wind? It makes a big difference! Is there really a difference in fuel economy between driving 65 mph and 68 mph? It can't add up to much right? Let's take a look at a recent example (see chart below).

Grouchy-Old-Man 2010 Ford Fusion
TimeTime SpeedFuel Economy per Dash Gauge
1:15 p.m. - 1:40 p.m.65 mph32.4
1:41 p.m. - 2:06 p.m.68 mph31.8
2:07 p.m. - 2:32 p.m.72 mph30.2
2:35 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.65 mph32.2
3:02 p.m. - 3:27 p.m.68 mph31.5
3:30 p.m. - 3:55 p.m.72 mph30.4
Equipped with resettable fuel economy gauge and a very understanding spouse
• Highway Driving Conditions • Relatively Flat Terrain • Headwinds 10-15MPH
• Cruise Control Set • Measured in 25-Minute Increments

So it looks like there is a difference in fuel economy in my 2010 Ford Fusion driving 68 mph vs. 65 mph. On average it’s about 0.7 mpg or 2.3 percent. It looks like increasing my speed to 72 mph decreases fuel economy by 2.0 mpg or 6.2 percent from the 65 mph level.

If I am looking to verify a 5 percent improvement in fuel economy by using AMSOIL synthetic lubricants, I need to be pretty careful and try to control every variable possible. Even a 3 mph difference affects fuel economy by 2.3 percent. In reality, it is very difficult to control all the variables affecting fuel economy. Most of the time, the variability in driving routines, equipment condition, fuel quality, tire pressure, wind conditions, outside temperature, etc. create so much change that it is almost impossible to clearly see a 5 percent fuel economy difference due to a lubricant change.

What we do know is that, under controlled conditions, there are significant differences between using lower-quality petroleum lubricants and correctly designed synthetic lubricants. The data is overwhelming and it makes logical sense, but all the other variables affecting fuel economy get in the way sometimes. The need to improve fuel economy is not going away, so let’s continue to help the other grumpy old men in the world who hate going to fuel up improve fuel economy with products and information on all the variables affecting mpg.

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