Ways to Increase Gas Mileage of Full-Sized Chevy Trucks
Full-sized Chevrolet truck gas mileage has increased over the years thanks to innovations such as the Active Fuel Management feature which switches the engine to run on four cylinders when idling and improvements in fuel injection systems. Still, there is clearly room for some improvement though.
I own a 2008 four-wheel drive, full-size Chevy 1500 truck (gas model), crew cab with a 5.3-liter engine that I use for my job. For my around-town vehicle, my wife and I use our Toyota Prius but it won't carry equipment or handle muddy roads like my full-sized Chevy. When I first purchased the truck it only got around 17 miles per gallon on the highway. This did not make me very happy so I began to do some research and make some improvements. I now get from 20-23 miles per gallon on the highway and about 17-19 city. That's not ideal, but since my job requires a full-sized truck it is pretty good compared to the fuel mileage of most models with V-8 engines, especially four-wheel-drive ones.
There is no one magic bullet that will get you better fuel mileage on a Chevy Silverado 1500 or any other brand. You can do a number of things that altogether will get you small mileage increases. If you can get 0.25 Mpg here, another 0.5 Mpg there, and so on, you may be able to achieve a two to four (or more) miles per gallon gain. Some of the gains that I experienced were from behavioral changes, not just modifications, so it is important to realize that getting better mileage requires some changes on the driver's part as well.
How I Got Better Gas Mileage From My Chevy Silverado 1500 Pickup
Clean the Fuel Injectors
If your fuel injectors are very clogged you may need a professional fuel system cleaning. For most minor clogging you can use a product like Techroline or Lucas Fuel System Cleaner to help clean out your injectors. A clean injector sprays a finer mist of fuel, which is easier to ignite and therefore increases fuel mileage by using all of the fuel sprayed into the cylinder. As for spark plugs, it is hard to beat the AC Delco plugs that came with your truck. Just make sure they are in good shape and properly gapped. Replace them and your wires, rotor, and cap if needed. By the way, I use regular unleaded, not premium fuels.
Keep Your Air Filter Clean
The issue of whether to change your factory air filter out with a "cold air intake" such as K&N is a hot one. You can get better mileage with more airflow, but only if you don't use the extra horsepower to hotrod. I recently switched my GM factory air filter to a washable K&N air filter partly because the OEM filters for my vehicle cost nearly $70. I can clean and recharge my K&N filter dozens of times for that price. I believe that switching to the higher volume air filter has increased my fuel mileage by about a half mile per gallon, though I would like to test that theory by switching back and forth over the course of several tanks of gas.
Keep Tires Inflated
We hear public service announcements all the time about tire pressure, so much that the message has become annoying. However, keeping tires at the proper inflation is the single best way to boost fuel mileage in a Chevy truck or any other auto. The recommended tire pressure as stamped on the tires that I own is "no more than 40 psi." On a warm day, I make sure that each tire has exactly 40 pounds, though you do have to adjust your tire pressure by adding some air in the winter.
Keep Your Foot Out of It
One of the easiest ways to get better full-sized truck fuel mileage is to slow down. If you slow down from 75 to 65 MPG you are going to see some major gains. This is because of the high amount of drag that full-sized trucks incur at higher speeds.
Use a Programmer
I use a Hypertech Max Energy Econ programmer on my Chevrolet Silverado, which gives the truck a few more horsepower and has increased fuel mileage by about one mile per gallon. Programmers work in all kinds of ways, including decreasing idle speed, adjusting torque converter locking-unlocking and preventing downshifting to boost fuel mileage. Another brand of fuel economy programmer for Chevy trucks is the Bully Dog which seems to have good reviews.
Don't Use High-Profile Tires
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The previous owner of my 2008 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 had done some things to hurt the fuel mileage like putting on oversize off-road tires and rims. I replaced these with stock tires and all-season BF Goodrich tires. Unless you really need them for off use, don't use large mud grip tires. These add extra drag and raise the profile of the vehicle so that more drag is created. Also, avoid the temptation to lift your truck. Lifting a truck one inch can translate to a half a mile per gallon loss of fuel mileage. Adding anything to the body of your truck, such as a light bar, "headache rack" or grill guard will increase drag and reduce fuel economy.
Use Synthetic Lubricants
One thing that noticeably boosted the fuel mileage of my Chevy Silverado 1500 was switching to synthetic oil and gear lube. Synthetic gear lubes and engine oils reduce the amount of drag inside your engine and rear axle. In addition, you can go longer between oil change intervals. (Just remember that it is recommended that once you switch to synthetic oil you don't switch back.)
I replaced my engine oil with Mobil 1 and used Mobil 1 gear lube in the rear and front axles. In the four-wheel-drive transfer case, I added Castrol synthetic Dextron fluid and had the transmission fluid changed to synthetic as well. This apparently increased my Chevy's fuel mileage by about one mile per gallon.
Use a Bed Cover
Bed covers or tonneau covers are often advertised to boost fuel mileage by one or two miles per gallon. My own real-world experience was about a half a mile per gallon gain. By reducing drag you can boost fuel mileage.
Change Your Driving Habits
I noticed about a one-mile-per-gallon gain by adjusting the way I accelerated and decelerated. By anticipating when you have to start slowing down and backing off the accelerator earlier instead of excessive braking you are not only getting better fuel mileage but making your truck's brakes last longer. If you have a Chevy Silverado with the driver's information center, use the "instant fuel economy" display to help you practice "hypermiling." You can use the science of hypermiling on a full-sized Chevy truck to increase fuel mileage.
While you should not do foolish things like following directly behind a large truck to block the wind, or shutting your engine off going down hills, there are some ways to boost fuel mileage by backing off the accelerator at certain times and allowing the vehicle to coast to a point instead of hurrying to get there and slamming on the brakes.
Get the Lead Out
To get the best full-sized pickup fuel mileage, make sure you are not hauling around extra weight. Get rid of extra items in the cab and bed of the truck. A few items can easily add up to a hundred pounds so carry with you only what you need and leave the rest behind in the garage.
Turn Off the AC When Not Needed
One thing that decreases fuel mileage on a full-sized Chevy Silverado truck by about one mile per gallon is using the AC. While you might have to use it in hot climates there is no good reason to have the AC switch (which looks like a snowflake on the display) on year-round. Turn it off and use the fan and bring in outside air. Also, don't leave the defroster on when not needed since that is the same as running the AC. Contrary to popular myth, you don't save money by turning off the AC and rolling your windows down. When your windows are down, drag is created, which can reduce fuel mileage by a mile per gallon or more. Keep them up and use the fan or AC instead.
Used all together, the above methods can help squeeze another one to three miles per gallon from your full-sized Chevrolet Silverado truck.
How to Check Your Fuel Mileage
The best mileage I have achieved so far was on a trip from California to San Antonio Texas. On stretches of level desert, with no AC on in the winter, I averaged 23 mpg. This was verified by topping off the tank to the same level and averaging the results over three fill-ups. My average highway mileage in varied terrain with the AC on is around 21 mpg. This is not bad for a crew cab 4x4 with a 5.3-liter engine. Try to find a gas pump that is not on a grade and has a level parking place. Top off the tank, record the gallons it takes to fill it to the same spot and divide the number of miles on the trip meter by that number.
Final Thoughts on Chevy Silverado 1500 Gas Mileage
If you can switch to a smaller truck, such as the Colorado, you will get better fuel mileage than from a full-sized gas-powered truck. For fuel economy, you should buy a truck with two-wheel drive, a five-speed transmission, and as small a motor as you need for whatever you plan to do. On the other hand, if you often tow things a diesel may be a better choice. Sadly there are no available mid-sized and light-duty diesel trucks yet, but hopefully, that will change since diesel engines can get better mileage on average than non-hybrid gasoline-powered vehicles.
Make sure that your rear axle is geared for highway driving if that is what you plan on using the truck for. A low geared rear end will cost you dearly at the pump.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.