5 Easy Do It Yourself Things That Improve Fuel Economy On Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius drivers are hyper aware of fuel economy in their car. Most who have been driving for a few years can probably tell you exactly what numbers they will see when the seasons change and by how much.
If you are new to driving a Prius or just want to know ways you may be able to improve your current fuel econ numbers, are a few Prius hacks you can use that could boost your MPG.
Cleaning The MAF On Your Prius
This first one is something that most people are not very familiar with, so I will do my best to explain what it is and how it works. A MAF or by the technical term, mass air flow sensor, detects the volume of air as it enters your engine by heating up a thin wire or resistor. The computer in your car then measures electrical resistance through the MAF as the air flowing through the sensor cools its components down.
Basically, this sensor measures the air coming in using a sophisticated algorithm. The computer then uses this information to add or take away fuel from the engine. Here is why this is so critical. A dirty MAF sensor will yield incorrect readings that will then cause the engine to start using more fuel than it should need. This can lower your fuel econ numbers pretty easy.
What you can do for your Prius is actually pretty darn simple. There are two screws that hold the sensor into the intake just above the throttle body. Take those screws out, take off the wire harness, give it is gentle twist side to side while pulling and it should come right out.
Once out, inspect it closely. If there is any dirt or buildup on any of the tiny sensor wires now is a great time to clean that off. Using CRC MAF sensor cleaner, rinse the sensor thoroughly, and reinstall it. The MAF sensor cleaner dries quickly.
There are two things that you can do here after cleaning. First, you can let your Prius "relearn" from the clean sensor and watch your fuel econ get better over time, or you can do a master reset. A master reset would be to disconnect the 12v battery for a period of time (maybe a couple minutes tops) and allow the systems to wipe completely. Once done, reconnect and drive your Prius as you normally would. Doing the second procedure allows for the computers to be completely wiped will let you start fresh. Either way is acceptable.
It is a super easy hack to do and it takes maybe 10 minutes of your time. Reap your reward today.
Use The RIght Engine Air Filter
If you are using a K&N filter currently, just go ahead and throw that in the trash. Check out my other article that tells you why they are garbage for your Prius. Here is why.
The engine right air filter, and I cannot stress right enough, is one of the best ways to ensure your fuel economy will stay high. When I say right, I mean an OEM from the dealer engine air filter. Yes, I know you can get a cheaper one at your favorite chain auto parts store, but hear me out.
Aftermarket filters are cheap for a reason, they use less material. This means they plug up quicker and need to be changed more often. Also, they can allow more air flow in, and that is not always a good thing. Seriously, check out the article on K&N.
More air flow in a modern car actually will contribute to poor fuel economy, and I give reasons why in that other article. The OEM filters have enough pleats and material density to not only keep out dirt, but to allow for the correct air flow to come through.
As crazy as this is going to sound, a dirty filter actually can contribute to better fuel economy. You see, the less air we give the engine, the air that is detected by the MAF, the less fuel we will use. I watched my master tech show this to me as we stuffed an airbox full of cleaning rags one day at work. The fuel trims began backing fuel off hard. Now, do not go around thinking that stuffing your intake with rags is going to get you 100 mpg, it will not, but remember that your filter will restrict more and more air the dirtier it gets, though this is not ideal.
Once a filter is so plugged it cannot breathe, your car will suffer from either not running at all or have a severe lack of power. Without air, there cannot be combustion. So just remember it does need to be changed, but use the filter that will give it the right amount of airflow for optimal performance.
Proper Tire Inflation/Proper Tires
Low Rolling Resistance tires should be on your Prius. If they are not, read here to find out what I recommend. Using LRR tires will give you an edge, but here is a hack you can do (when the weather is good) that can help drive your fuel econ numbers up even more.
If you max out your tire pressure you will actually have less contact area between your tire and the road. This means you will encounter less rolling resistance and can see an increase in MPG. Now, full disclosure here, I am not telling you that this is safe, if it were to rain or snow, less contact is not a good idea, but on a dry day and long road trip, I would heavily consider doing it. Just be aware of what it does so you can stay safe.
Regular Maintenance Services
Regular maintenance is not only a good idea, it should be a best practice. Prius does not take a ton of attention, but if left alone all that maintenance can add up fast. Keeping a clean record of all your doings could actually increase your resale value to the buyer. A perception of a well taken car can add value to the right buyer.
Regular maintenance though can help you avoid major issues. Knowing where you need to start can be as easy as finding a service tech that you trust and scheduling an appointment to have your Prius looked over. Once that is done, pick off one or two items every oil change you can do until your car is fully up to date on all the necessary items it has needed.
This will help you find things that could be a potential issue such as brakes, or leaks, and get them repaired before you get stranded. Always use someone you trust.
A Good Fuel Additive
When it comes to fuel additives there are hundreds it seems. My personal favorites are Chevron's Techron Fuel System Cleaner, and BG Products 44k Fuel System Treatment. These two have given me the best results from all that I have tested so far. I also really like one that is made by Lucas, if the other two are not available.
I hesitate to offer Seafoam to you as a reputable option just because it does better as a carbon cleaner than a fuel system treatment. Personal opinion and data I have seen.
The first two products work. Whatever black magic or witchcraft is in them, they get you results. Techron was even used by GM as a Top Engine Cleaner back in the day to solve some engine issues. BG also has a Hybrid kit out on the market that helps reduce oil consumption on our Prius vehicles as well. Check out my story about using BG products and what it has done for me so far.
There are few other things that I could get into with aiding in fuel economy, but these 5 things are easy enough that anyone can do them. They will also yield results as well based on my personal experience with them. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you are doing your homework and finding OEM parts that came on your Prius. That way you will ensure a quality part and get the fuel numbers you want.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading about how to increase your fuel economy on your Toyota Prius. Check out my other story Why the first generation Prius is better than either generation Nissan Leaf.
See you in the next story where I am discussing why the Toyota Prius AWD-e is the best one yet and why car enthusiasts and average car guys loathe the Toyota Prius.
Also Watch New tech means more MPG from your Toyota Prius and Click to Subscribe to Torque News Youtube Channel for Daily Toyota Prius and Automotive News.
Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He is an automotive technology instructor at Columbia Basin College. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter.