How to Boost Silverado 1500 MPG
Ways to Increase Gas Mileage of Full-Sized Chevy Trucks
Boosting Chevy Silverado Truck Gas Mileage.
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 which 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.
Here are the things that I did to get better gas mileage from my full sized Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup.
Clean the Fuel Injectors to Get Better Full-Sized Chevy Truck Fuel Mileage
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 truck is the Bully Dog which seems to have good reviews.
Don't Use High-Profile Tires
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.
To Increase Chevrolet Full-Sized Truck Fuel Mileage 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 about one mile per gallon.
Use a Bed Cover on Your Full-Sized Chevy for Fuel Mileage Increase
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 for Better Chevrolet Truck Gas Mileage
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, and 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.
mimi7251 from Beautiful downtown Apache Junction, Arizona! on April 11, 2012:
I don't know about the Chevy Silverado truck, but my husband owns a "big" Dodge Ram truck. He tried everything like better gas grades, no lead, put a checkmark on iflated tires, changing air filters every 3 months, and got tune-ups at the same time. He was still getting like 12 mpg. He got so stressed over his truck that he got this additive called Fuel-Maxx from www.clfuelsaverplus.com and he loves it! He now gets a 12% increase. The truck runs a little better too. Every little bit helps!
Nolen Hart (author) from Southwest on October 28, 2011:
I'm with you on the ethanol free gas. Worst mileage I ever had was with E-20, at a trial station.
pcmariner on August 31, 2011:
Added efficiency recommendations.... Buy ethanol free gas whenever possible. You get better efficiency (btu utilization) . By keeping suspension in good condition you not only improve the ride you get a slight increase in mileage
kneedragger on June 14, 2011:
u r correct! does it pay off in long run? yes,
but it is it worth them not getting our money now?
thx for advice, im at 14 now, and stepping it up this week hopefully!
John C. on April 06, 2011:
I have a 2002 Silverado with the 5.3. I have installed a "cold air" intake and even wrapped it with extra insulation to stop engine heat from heating it up. Have also installed a 12"x6" ram air down beneath the air filter in from of the right front tire to help force more air up to the air filter. I have used Mobil one 5w30 but went back to Amsoil 5w30 and filter. Changed the front and rear differentials over to Amsoil synthetic gear lube. Far as I know nobody makes a synthetic oil for the 4x4 transfer case yet so I changed the fluid with the original type. I do run between 36 and 40 psi in my tires. Have even gone so far as to put Rain X on my windshield to help the "slip stream" of air slide over it. I changed the transmission fluid with original, did a full flush in my driveway without the flush machine, and yes, it can be done without the machine, just takes two people to do it, no big deal. I also purchased a Hypertech programmer, but even the sales rep told me that the programing is only good for wide open throttle. I bought the programmer from Streetside Automotive for about $259. It is supposed to help between 1-2 mpg more, which appears like it did. Have estimated between fill ups that I have only increased my milage by approx 3-3.5 more mpg. Is it worth it? As long as the parts that you purchase are built in the USA and we are giving less money to the Sudie's for their oil, dern right its worth it. We are facing $5.00 per gallon this coming summer. Its time we get some leadership in this country to stand up for the people. This "president" is not doing the job! John C. Sebolt Ret USAF
John on March 23, 2011:
I bought the K&N cold air intake for my 2008 Chevy Silverado with the 5.3, it improved the mpg by over 1 as well as some added power.
Mike on March 22, 2011:
My 2000 with the 5.3 gets 13 miles to the gallon. hah, i get excited when i see 15. 20 would make me cry a little.
tv led ireland on February 16, 2011:
Those tips are really helpful, since i did all of this my Silverado works better : )
jack on December 04, 2010:
I have a 4x4 ranger with a v-6 4.0 ltr I get around 17mpgs- and I would like to put a 4 cyl diesel in but I also know I have to swap out a lot more parts but I dont know if the addad MPG out of a diesel would be worth it money wise.
Matt on September 10, 2010:
Great summary. One point is to consider the cost/benefit in any decision. If an add-on part costs $500 and will save you 1 mpg, it may not be worth it in a year. For example, if you drive 15,000 miles per year and get 17 mpg, you'll burn 882 gallons. 18 mpg will yield 15,882 miles, which equivalently would save 49 gallons of gas. At $3 per gallon, that will save approximately $150. The projected payback period for this add on would be 3 1/3 years.
ANdrew on September 09, 2010:
I wish all pickup owners had this man's sense...
ejasoft from egypt on August 23, 2010:
thank you it's usfull for me but 20 mpg it's very good for any car thank you anyway
Nolen Hart (author) from Southwest on July 11, 2010:
Thanks Ann. There are many folks out here who need a full sized four wheel drive truck. I use my truck for both work and fun. Those who work in construction and other trades simply need the towing power, cargo room and ability to travel in winter weather. For a four wheel drive full sized truck 20 plus mpg is actually very good. Most trucks of this size get just over half that. Hopefully we will see some hybrid trucks that are more than just marketing gimmicks come on the market. Thanks for the kind words and for reading my hubs.
Ann Lee on July 09, 2010:
20 mpg doesn't seem like very good gas mileage to me, but I like your writing style
stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on July 05, 2010:
Thank you for these very helpful ideas. God Bless You.
Nolen Hart (author) from Southwest on July 02, 2010:
Update. Just got back from a week long trip to New Mexico and the truck averaged 20 mpg.
ASFA123 on June 09, 2010: