Repairs and Maintenance

How to Improve Your Toyota Tacoma Gas Mileage

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Everyone wants better gas mileage out of their truck, but it’s hard to tell exactly what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the driving techniques you can adopt and the modifications that you can make in order to squeeze out a few more miles per gallon. The Toyota Tacoma is no exception, so we’ve put together a quick list of things you can try to help improve your Tacoma’s fuel economy without breaking the bank.

1. Don’t share. Believe it or not, most vehicles built in the last decade or so have the ability to “learn” your driving patterns. Once they know your pattern – how you like to shift, how fast you like to accelerate, etc. – the engine computer will automatically adjust the powertrain to maximize efficiency. But if you share your car with someone who drives differently – say, by letting your wild-eyed son in law use your truck to pick up some furniture – it’s possible that your engine will change patterns to match the new driver. Constant learning and re-learning usually isn’t good for gas mileage.

2. Tire inflation. Yes, this became a political joke during the last election, but the reality is, properly-inflated tires do help you get more miles from a tank of gas. It’s also true that most people rarely check how many pounds of air are in each tire on anything resembling a regular basis. Get a gauge, check your door sticker and make sure you aren’t riding too low.

3. Don’t drive angry. While it might be fun, slamming down on the gas as you peel away from a stoplight consumes a lot more fuel than simply accelerating at a reasonable pace – especially in a truck. It’s also helpful to keep a close eye on traffic up ahead and plan your acceleration and deceleration accordingly so that you aren’t always switching between the brake and the gas pedal. Smooth throttle application, maintaining a constant speed and avoiding “jackrabbit” starts can help you save fuel.

AFE Pro Dry Filters are very popular air filter replacement options for Tacoma owners.

4. Lose the junk in the trunk.  Do you regularly haul around tires, wheels, jacks, tool kits, camping gear, coolers filled with melted ice water or basically anything that you haven’t gotten around to cleaning out of your truck bed? If you do – and we’re not judging you – you are paying for it with reduced fuel mileage. A lighter truck is a more efficient truck, so clearing your Tacoma’s bed of everything but the essentials can really make a difference over time.

5. Use high viscosity synthetic oil. While synthetic oil may have some benefits in terms of prolonging engine life, it definitely improves fuel economy. As much as 3%, in fact. This is one of the main reasons Toyota is switching all their vehicles to zero weight synthetic oil – better fuel economy.

6. Change your air filter. Many Tacoma owners have success installing a free-flow air filter, such as one made out of a synthetic, washable material in place of the stock paper unit. More air flow often means a more efficient engine, and although the improvements can be small they do add up over the long term. It’s a good idea to make sure that whatever aftermarket air filter you install, however, doesn’t end up sucking in more hot air from under the hood than the original setup. That will actually hurt performance rather than give you a boost.

7. Regular air filter maintenance. If you get a washable air filter, you need to keep it clean. Even if you decide to stay with a paper air filter, make sure you inspect it on a regular basis to see how dirty it’s gotten.  Dirty filters restrict airflow to your motor and hurt your fuel mileage, and need to be changed or washed periodically. It’s a good idea to check at every oil change, although if you live on a dirty road or find yourself in dusty environments you might have to accelerate that schedule.

8. Low rolling resistance tires, anyone? For truck owners, this can be a tough pill to swallow. On one hand, going with a set of ‘green’ low rolling resistance tires is a great way to save gas money. On the other, these tires are usually miserable in terms of off-road performance AND they’re expensive AND they don’t perform as well as regular tires in terms of tread wear, stopping and handling, etc. However, if you’re trying to squeeze every MPG out of your Taco, this is an option too.

Does anyone have any tricks or tips that have worked for them when trying to improve their own Tacoma fuel mileage? Please share them in the comments.

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  1. Jack Hammer says:

    I feel the greatest, by far, single item that you can do to improve gas mileage is to put on a tonnau cover. If that is not out of the scope of the budget. On my tacoma the cover paid itself off in a year.

    • Jack – Different people have different success with tonneau covers and fuel economy, but when you look at the aerodynamics, tonneaus only make a marginal difference: http://www.tundraheadquarters......nomy-myth/

      Still, having said that, different people have found they make a huge difference. My opinion is that people should buy a tonneau cause they want one, not b/c of gas mileage.

  2. Why not just lower the tailgate ?

    • Wayne – Believe it or not, that actually hurts fuel economy. Most trucks are more aerodynamic with the tailgate up – that’s how they’ve been designed since the mid to late 90′s.

  3. Jason is right, the bed is designed, along with the tailgate, to cause a air bubble affect in the bed area. That allows the aerodynamics to come into play by the air traveling over the cab and gliding over the “air bubble” in the bed area. Better and more effective airflow pattern.

    • Dan – Thanks! Are you an aerodynamic engineer or just very smart? :-) I ask because I’d like to ask you some questions…

  4. So, what about the latest chip mods that have come out? AEM has one and Jet has one and I am still looking for others (ones that are worth discussing at least)… What do you think? A simple intake upgrade could get the effect that a chip could and of coarse, I am looking for the most economical upgrade (aka cheapest!) I have an 06 Tacoma and I didnt expect the power that this thing has but I also didnt expect the gas mileage to be so bad. (By bad I mean between 15 and 18) I know that driving habits effect it and fuel type and oil etc etc, so assuming I am not ENTIRELY ignorant, what are the suggestions?

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      I have NEVER heard anything good with regards to chips and MPG. Most of the chips are for more performance which doesn’t always translate into better fuel economy.


    • I have an ’06 Taco with a 6 speed MT and get on average 18.9 mpg with my best tank being 21.0 mpg. When I 1st started tracking it I got 16.6 mpg.
      All I have done was change plugs, all gear oil to synthetic, cleaned MAF sensor and watch my shift points, I also skip gears and keep rpm’s below 2000. I stay 60 or below on the highway any higher and your sucking gas if you have a MT.
      Regular maintenance is the key to keeping your gas mileage high and of course the right foot mod. It’s a truck not a race car.

      • Tim Esterdahl says:

        Right on! Those are the basic keys to good MPG. It does sacrifice some of the gas pedal stomping “fun.” But, you really save money.


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