Improving a truck’s fuel miles-per-gallon (MPG) is an important goal for all truck manufacturers. CAFE standards for MPG are still undecided, yet fuel costs continue to skyrocket. If you’re a truck owner wondering how to get better gas mileage in a truck, we’ll try to give you a few useful strategies.
One strategy that many truck manufacturers are turning to is installing synthetic engine oils as factory-fill. This is one useful strategy that truck manufacturers feel will help them fit tough government fuel economy requirements. The main question for truck manufacturers would be the following: does synthetic oil give you better gas mileage over conventional lubricants?
Why Synthetic Oil Instead of Conventional Oil?
Conventional lubricants are derived from crude oil. The primary use of conventional crude oil is to extract fuel, such as gasoline and diesel. A secondary byproduct is the base oils used for lubricants. These lubricating base oils are put through further refining to try to extract as many unwanted contaminants as possible. Unfortunately, when the refining process is finished there are still unwanted contaminating elements in these conventional lubricating base stocks. These contaminating elements are nitrogen, sulfur, oxygen, nickel, and/or vanadium.
As a conventional oil is used, these contaminants tend to accumulate inside the motor, thus reducing its efficiency and eventually causing undue wear and other problems inside the engine. The complex oil refining process that is performed on conventional lubricating base stocks separates the various types of molecules found in the oil by weight.
What is left are molecules similar in weight but dissimilar in structure. This is important to know because these molecules of dissimilar structures tend to create a lot of unwanted fluid friction, which causes the engine to expend unnecessary amounts of energy. This wastes fuel and reduces engine performance.
On the other hand, synthetic lubricants are chemically designed in a laboratory in such a manner as to create pure lubricants. These synthetic base stock oils are devoid of any contaminating elements. Additionally, they are specifically designed with similar, uniform molecular structures.
These pure base oils, with their uniform molecular structure, flow with no fluid friction. They deliver improved friction reduction, which translates to a more efficient running engine and maximum fuel efficiency. Also, because they inherently contain no unwanted byproducts, they will keep an engine clean.
Synthetic base stock oils are thermally stable and can perform amazingly well across a vast temperature range. They also provide a tougher film strength. When you factor in all these highly engineered features that are found in synthetic lubricants it is easy to understand why they deliver high-performance benefits that conventional lubricants simply cannot compete with.
Does Synthetic Oil Give You Better Gas Mileage?
We’ve already stated that synthetic base stock oils are purposely engineered to be made with a similar and uniform molecular structure. Since the molecules are all the same, they will easily flow without any, or minimal, fluid friction. The opposite is the case with conventional lubricants due to the fact that conventional base oils contain differing sized molecules. This results in the oil causing undue fluid friction.
In the past, trucks made use of thicker or higher viscosity engine oils, such as 15W40, 10W40, and 10W30. In the 21st Century, truck manufacturers are reverting to specifying lighter viscosity oils for their engines, such as 5W30, 5W20, 5W40, and 0W40. This is all with an eye on delivering even greater fuel economy savings. The lower you go with oil viscosity, the easier the oil flows.
Visualize a container of honey and a cup of water. Mixing water with a spoon needs less power than mixing honey. This concept can be directly applied and understood for your motor and engine oil. Less viscous oils flow with much less resistance through the motor and thus provide less friction to motor parts. This will lead to an MPG increase in truck by improving fuel efficiency. Remember what we said earlier about synthetic base oils all containing the same sized molecules. This is a key factor in how synthetic oils naturally will improve fuel economy.
One area that is often overlooked when discussing how synthetic oils can improve gas mileage is knowing whether the formulation is utilizing friction-reducing additives. One particular additive that is rarely discussed but is being used by more and more lubricant chemists is synthesized moly. There are useful benefits by incorporating moly within an engine oil’s chemistry. Its performance with other friction modifiers is synergistic. Moly is able to reduce fluid drag/friction by up to 65%!
Additionally, there are other friction modifiers found within a high-performance synthetic engine oil. Broadly speaking, switching to a high-performance synthetic oil can deliver fuel savings up to 6% in your truck. That can be a significant money-saving benefit over a year’s time. Do the math and synthetics quickly become a lubricant to seriously consider when contemplating how to get better gas mileage in a truck.
Better Low-Temperature Performance
When discussing how to get better MPG in a truck, we have to consider how different oils operate in different temperature ranges. A synthetic’s superior flow characteristics during cold winter starting will definitely enhance your truck’s fuel efficiency. The fact that synthetics do not possess wax-like byproducts as conventional lubricants do translates to the oil not becoming unnecessarily viscous when your car sits idle during extremely cold temperatures. In the morning when you start your truck and drive away, the engine oil, transmission fluid, and equipment lube don’t require as much energy to flow.
Yet again, the benefits of synthetic lubricants mean consuming less power and increasing your truck’s fuel miles-per-gallon. Note that low temperatures are not just restricted to the northern parts of the country. Standard operating temperatures for a truck can reach 235 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures below this can be thought of as “cold” for your motor. In other words, in the southern regions at the peak of summer heat, synthetic lubricant’s natural ability to flow at lower temperatures will undoubtedly improve fuel efficiency. This means fewer visits to the gas/diesel pump, and less waste in both your engine and wallet.
Why do Synthetic Provide Benefits in Minimizing Engine Oil Viscosity?
Designing a 0W40 engine oil by utilizing regular/conventional base stock oils is problematic, if not unattainable. Lubricant engineers can reach the goal of a 0W rating, yet the oil will certainly evaporate more easily in high-heat temps. In addition, following this path of formulation with conventional base stock oils will cause the oil to not pass industry-standard tests.
In other words, creating truck oils is a compromise, and conventional base stock oils will not give anywhere near the performance that lubricants formulated with 100% synthetic base stock oils will. This means that lubricant engineers will need to compromise too much performance in one area to obtain in another area.
More Fuel Economy Tips
There are many other factors beyond the use of synthetic lubricants that can help truck owners to improve and increase their vehicle’s fuel mileage. One aspect is your truck’s tires. It is important to maintain the manufacturer’s recommended air tire pressure.
Another way to improve gas mileage is through your brakes. It is a good idea when your truck is scheduled for service to ask your mechanic to check that the brake pads are in good shape and that they are not dragging or stuck. If they are stuck, this will cause unwanted friction, causing the engine to waste precious fuel.
In addition, when driving, try to be smooth with your braking technique, which brings us to driving habits. By focusing on being very smooth with how you apply or feed gas through the gas pedal, you can greatly increase your fuel economy. When driving, try to be consistent and steady with the gas pedal. Try your best not to do “jackrabbit starts,” which is accelerating hard from a stop. Smoothness and consistency is the key to improved fuel economy.
Interestingly, your truck’s air filter can greatly affect the performance of your motor. Make sure the air filter is not clogged with dirt or dust, which can rob your engine of precious air. There are different qualities of filters. Choose the best one available. These filter products can help improve fuel MPG.
We’ve presented some simple strategies on how to get better gas mileage in a truck. It is safe to say that by following these suggestions you can attain fuel economy gains. Consider switching to high-performance synthetic lubricants through your truck’s powertrain system. Ultimately, your vehicle will operate more efficiently, waste less fuel, and put money back into your pocket.
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