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RV Fuel Savings Guide

Helping RV and 5th Wheel Trailer Owners improve their gas mileage

As fuel is the life blood of a recreation vehicle, it is also the life blood of an RV owner's lifestyle. With our rising fuel prices high, RV owners are worried their lifestyles may end. To help keep you traveling, Icon Technologies is pleased to offer this fuel guide to help RV owners improve their mileage. By following the tips in this guide, owners of RV's and 5th wheel trailers can begin to see fuel savings immediately.

Jump to specific tips:
Improving aerodynamics with wind deflectors, proper maintenance, proper driving habits, premium vs regular fuel, tire inflation, slowing down, carrying reduced loads, stay flexible.

Improve Aerodynamics:

 

streamlining your 5th wheel trailer, travel trailer, and cargo van.

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Almost all of the big semi-trucks that you see on our highways have a big ramp that sends the wind over and around their big, block-shaped trailers. Why would the rules of aerodynamics be any different for smaller vehicles pulling things like 5th wheel RV’s, travel trailers, horse trailers, and utility trailers? The area of a 5th wheel trailer that stands above the cab of the truck acts like a brick wall aerodynamically speaking. Not only does air build up in front of the trailer, but the air also collects in the pocket between the trailer and the truck bed creating significant amounts of drag.

That is why many companies, such as Icon Technologies, have developed wind deflectors. These units are also known as air deflectors, truck wings, wind ramps, etc. Wind deflectors are designed to direct the air flow up and over the top part of the trailer eliminating the air block and the added drag. Wind Deflectors can improve mileage for 5th wheel units and tractor trailers by 3 – 5 mpg. The roof mounted wind deflectors are also perfect for cube vans. Like a semi-trailer, a cube van is designed to maximize storage space. Aerodynamics is a concern for these vehicles too, as seen with those bubbles mounted to the front. However, wind deflectors are more effective than a bubble dome. Even small vehicles pulling small trailers will benefit from a wind deflector. If your trailer is higher than your tow vehicle, it will create wind drag.

The best wind deflector on the market is the AeroShield Wind Deflector made by Icon Technologies. It is a rooftop mounted unit, which means it doesn’t have the problems that a stake pocket model does, and it doesn’t require drilling. The AeroShield comes completely assembled, ready for quick installation on almost any vehicle using the appropriate installation kit (included in the box). It can be adjusted to virtually any angle, creating maximum aerodynamic efficiency by directing the air over the top and sides of the trailer. It quickly and easily folds flat when not in use. In the flat position, the AeroShield also reduces tailgate drag for pick-ups by deflecting the wind over the truck box. Made of ultra strong, lightweight polymer material and aircraft aluminum, the AeroShield is designed to flow with the lines of your vehicle. You can even paint the AeroShield to match your vehicle.

Wind deflectors have been proven to increase fuel mileage and improve stability and handling. They also reduce the amount of road debris and bugs on the front of your trailer. Not all wind deflectors are created equal, though. Results may vary with lower quality copycat products out there. Be sure to get a top quality AeroShield Wind Deflector!

Additionally, using Fender skirts and propane tank covers can streamline your trailer, which will assist in reducing drag. Tonneau covers also have a big impact on drag reduction, because they don't allow air to get trapped in your truck box. This has a direct relation to increasing your fuel mileage. All of these items will assist in reducing the drag of your whole unit.

Following Proper RV and 5th wheel truck maintenance.

Maintenance is important to keep your engine performing on all cylinders. Keeping the vehicle tuned up and in top running condition saves fuel. A poorly tuned engine can lower fuel economy by 10 to 20, so ensure your unit is in tip top shape. Here is a RV maintenance checklist compiled from many RV owners. Use it to double check your vehicle.

  • A clean air filter allows more air in to burn the fuel, and clean injectors and carburetors control the flow of fuel into the combustion chamber.
  • Many drivers have found an improvement by using synthetic oils.
  • Be sure your tires are in good shape. Many tire manufacturers now offer a tire specially designed for RV's which improve ride, stability and MPG.
  • Check your wheel bearings are properly lubricated to reduce drag.
  • Drum brakes should be properly adjusted to reduce drag.
  • Be sure your front end is properly aligned to reduce tire wear, and resistance against the forward motion of the RV.
  • Your shocks have to be in good shape to keep the tires on the road and providing more traction, control and a better ride.
  • Some RV owners recommend placing a bug screen in front of your radiator to keep bugs out of the radiator fins. This will keep the fins free, the engine running cooler, and therefore the clutch fan will stay off longer resulting in improved performance.
  • Drain and back flush the cooling system annually will help the RV run cooler resulting in less clutch fan engagement time and thereby improved performance.
  • Make sure the RV is running at peak efficiency, and tuned up. Be sure to double check all wires, such as the plug wires, all vacuum lines and gas lines free of cracks. Wires and lines often encounter wear and cracking due to the extreme heat they encounter.

Avoid Premium Fuel

One secret to lowering your overall fuel cost is to just use regular gas, unless your owner’s manual specifies a higher octane gas. Most RV's don't benefit from burning high octane fuel, and therefore you will pay at least $20 more per tank for no additional performance.

Keep Tires Properly Inflated

Another fuel saver is to keep tire air pressures at the levels recommended by your dealer. Tire pressure can severely affects fuel economy. Studies have shown that a single tire under inflated by 1 PSI can increase fuel consumption by 3%. This means that simply checking and adjusting your tire pressure to the proper pressure can increase fuel economy by 3%! If you have six tires on your RV, and they’re under-inflated by five pounds, you’re losing 12 percent of your fuel economy. Therefore simply keeping your tires properly inflated could save you the cost of the fuel price increase. If the tires are low on air, the engine has to push harder to move the RV ahead. It is important to know that tires can look normal when they are seriously under inflated. Use a quality air pressure gauge and check your tires only when they're cool, and check them daily when on trips.

Speed and Slowing Down

The next greatest improvement in fuel economy is the speed we drive. Driving faster pushes more air ahead of the RV, which creates more resistance to forward movement. Without getting into hard core physics lesson, increasing speed from 55mph to 75mph, or 90 km/hr to 120 km/hr, increased speed by 35% but increases wind load by 250%. Your RV has to work exponentially harder with every increase in speed above 55 mph/90 kmh. The average decline in gas usage from 55 - 75MPG is 40% - 50%. If you're getting 10 MPG at 55mph/90kph, then you will be getting 5.5-6 MPG at 75mph/120kph. Let's put that into monetary values. At a price of $3.00 per gallon, it costs $30 to drive 100 miles at 55 mph. If you drive faster at 75 mph, you’ll pay $54.50 to drive the same distance, almost an 80% increase. Slowing down saves a LOT of money.

Following Proper Driving Practices

  • Aggressive driving such as speeding, rapid acceleration and braking, can lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent around town.
  • Obey the speed limit. While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 55 mph. As a rule of thumb, each 5 mph over 55 mph is like paying an additional $0.30 per gallon for gas. Observing the speed limit is also safer.
  • Use cruise control to help cut fuel consumption by maintaining a steady speed during highway driving on flat roads, down sloping roads, and on moderate hills.
  • If you must stop or slow down, resume your cruising speed gradually. Re-engage your cruise control AFTER you have resumed top cruising speed. A cruise control engaged too early will try to get the unit back up to speed too fast, decreasing MPG.
    • On steep hills, cruise adds additional fuel into the engine to try and maintain speed. When approaching a steep hill keep the momentum of speed up by overriding the cruise, and applying the gas manually before reaching the hill. This will help prevent the unit from lugging down. Then manually shift into second gear at about 45 MPH instead of pushing the gas pedal to the floor. This technique will not only improve MPG go up the steep hill, it will also protect your transmission, your engine and your exhaust manifolds.
  • Some drivers constantly push and release the gas pedal after reaching cruising speed. Keeping steady pressure, pressing very gradually will improve MPG right away.
  • Drive behind a large semi tractor and trailer and follow them, without tailgating of course. The semi trailer will reduce the head wind and improve mileage. RVer’s have also reported that driving behind semi trailers is more peaceful as the professional drivers stay at constant speeds, don’t change lanes often, and their presence prevents cars from swerving in front.
  • Avoid driving in stop-and-go traffic. If you arrive during a city rush hour, find a shopping center and have dinner. Ideally, miss the rush by arriving at your campground by 4 p.m. so you can relax.
  • If available, use your vehicle's overdrive gear when appropriate to reduce engine speed, which will enable you to save gas and reduce engine wear.
  • Avoid idling, which gets zero mpg. Cars with larger engines typically waste even more gas at idling than cars with smaller engines.
  • Combine your errands into one trip and plan your routes carefully to drive fewer miles and use less fuel -- and reduce wear and tear on your vehicle. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer, multipurpose trip. Trip planning ensures that traveling is done when the engine is warmed-up and efficient.
  • To the extent that nights are cooler and less windy, consider traveling then. Cooler, less wind means less AC needed and less resistance due to winds thus improved MPG.
  • When on the road look well ahead for slower traffic or intersections. Start slowing immediately, enough to keep the unit rolling nice and steady.
  • Constant lane changing will force you to apply more gas and/or brakes to adjust to the speed of the new lane. Staying in one lane allows for more constant speed, thus improving MPG.
  • Avoid resting your foot on your brake pedal or clutch pedal when driving. Both habits increase wear on parts and decrease MPG.
  • Drive with all large windows closed to reduce drag.

Reduce Vehicle Load

Water Load: Leaving on a trip with the water tanks full adds a significant amount of unnecessary weight. Fill only the amount of water needed to get to your destination. Drain down before resuming on the trip. Also travelling with your black water and/or your grey water tanks partially full adds a lot of extra weight that takes extra gas to carry; and in an emergency stop it is a lot of extra weight to stop. It is not only hard on gas, but also hard on brakes. Also adding extra weight in the form of additional 'stuff' that you don't need also reduces fuel economy. Pack lightly when traveling, and avoid carrying items on your vehicle's roof. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk cuts a typical car's fuel economy by up to 2 percent.

Air Conditioning: One thing that will reduce your fuel economy by one-half mpg is your cab air-conditioning system. Shutting the dash air conditioner off, or only using it when it is absolutely necessary, will save a significant amount of fuel. Use your generator to operate the roof air-conditioner. You can run the generator for an hour on a half-gallon of fuel. Run your generator and the overhead coach AC instead of dash air. This keeps the load off the engine, allows it to run cooler and overall you will use less gas. Make sure you have an aerodynamic air conditioner shroud covering your A/C unit. This will reduce the drag caused by the air conditioner, as well as protect it from the elements and tree branches. If your air conditioner cover is missing or broken, replace it as soon as possible. Also close off all unoccupied parts of the coach with a ceiling to floor curtain so there is less square footage to try and cool.

Flexible Travel Plans – Waiting for Weather and Longer Stays

Weather conditions also play a role in fuel economy. Driving into a strong headwind will lower your mileage and driving with a strong tailwind will give you better mileage. Stay flexible in your travel plans and consider only traveling when the weather conditions are in your favour. Many RVers save fuel simply by enjoying longer visits at their stops. By staying an extra day at each campground, you will double your fuel economy.

RV Fuel Savings Guide Conclusion

Following these simple tips will help you obtain the best fuel mileage possible, and enable you to keep travelling despite high gas possible. We hope this guide on how to save fuel for RV’s has been informative. If you would like to continue to research this topic, and learn more, here are a wide assortment of links that we found helpful in compiling this information.

 
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