Fuel Economy Tip – Wash and Wax?

I wish I knew for certain that today’s tip actually does help you get better gas mileage, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll have the nicest looking car in the neighborhood.

Regularly wash and wax your vehicle.

If this idea actually works, I wish I could take credit for it (if it turns out to be a scam, you didn’t get the idea from me). While searching other gas saving sites, I came across a tip that claims if you wash and wax your car, you can improve your gas mileage by up to 7%, which based on today’s prices would be about $.27 per gallon.

Not too shabby.

The basic idea behind it is, after washing and waxing your car, the surface of the vehicle is much more likely to be nice and smooth, therefore, it should be more aerodynamic than when you have lots of bug guts smeared all over.

It looks like a sound theory, but I don’t know if simply cleaning your car will increase your fuel economy that drastically. However, it’s worth a shot because at the very least, your car’s going to look nice.

Especially if you’re NOT kicking sweet rims.

Comments

  1. Let’s get the MythBusters chant going!

  2. I would love to se Mythbusters compair a clean car to a car with K-Y Jelly all over it!

  3. I believe that you can see a slight improvement with a clean car. I agree with the guy that said you can tell a difference in the way the car handles on the road. Like when the wind blows accros the road the car isn’t affected as much. So this must have something to do with the drag being affected in some way. With a boat it is well known that you can get significant mpg and speed gains with a clean, waxed hull.

    Also don’t forget you have the underbody of the car. This is where you can get some reduction in drag. Lots of dirt builds up here and adds to the drag of the car. Also affecting the condition of the suspension, brakes, and exhaust.

    I found this blog though a google search, “top reasons to wash your car”

  4. Brian Carr says:

    Jeremy – Thanks for the comment, and great point about the underbody of the car. I’m sure over time plenty of crud (yes, that’s the technical term) builds up down there and adds weight/increases drag. Also, thanks for letting me know how you found this site.

  5. I found this site by Googling: “Does waxing improve fuel efficiency”. I’m trying to remember why I decided to google that… and the reason is I just wax buffed all the cars in the household, my ’93 Explorer which has no paint on hood or roof and has silicone applied inside the water guides covering rust with a nice Yakima roof rack which I recently tore off by getting stuck between trees is getting a yearly average of 13.8mpg city/highway but being mostly city. I keep the sides and back… clean and waxed but I’m sure as above poster mentioned dirt and underside grime all add up. I thought, I do take the Explorer mudding alot and even though I take care of it cosmetically (not the original owner, and sun likes to bake cars here in South Florida) and probably have a couple pounds of Key Largo Limestone stuck underneath… will putting tire shine on the spare help also? The surface will be smoother but it will also be alot stickier than mud… I’m also bringing the thread from a one year halt. Did a year of wax engineering bring up the percentage to 8? Also, I notices alot of smart people on the board referring to the theory of the golfball and such.

    Also to the person that stated people that wash and wax their cars are usually less prone to aggressive driving. This is wrong, people in my age group (18-30?) take great care of car cosmetics and also take great care of the car mechanically, but we do take our cars to the track either testing full potential of the motor at the drag strip or riding on bump stops taking the tight left hander at the local autocross meet. Also I’m sad to say, alot of our age group use our vehicles for “showoff” purposes which include waxing and also include car abuse by the unwise.

    Of course to completely turn around that idea, a pothead will drive a lot less aggressively then a stressed, sober person fighting five o’clock traffic. Even thought the couch mobile will have windows covered in bird shit and an engine bay full of leaves and rat nests the car will get better fuel mileage then a mint washed car of a Fast and the Furious kid coming from the car wash not knowing jack, nor a devoted racer coming back from the track with melted rubber stuck inside the wheel wells, but hey, he did have a clean waxed and light car when he left right?

  6. I believe it helps a little bit, but no where near 7%. I am one of those anal car guys and will occasionally go further and use a clay bar to pull crap off the surface. This leaves the paint in a nearly new condition. Dragging a towel across a portion that has this done vs not done, you can feel additional friction (even with bare hands), and hear the roughness from the towel. Ships have their hulls cleaned as maintenance. Of course water is much more dense than air and its effects are more pronounced.
    I dont believe that just washing, in fleet applications, makes enough of a difference to offset the costs involved in labor and water.
    WIll it offset the costs if its waxed and clayed as well? Probably not. Its just a nice benefit to those that are meticulous with their automobiles. Undoubtedly, 90% of the public doesnt have the mental fortitude to take care of their cars well enough to make them last at LEAST 10 years. I own a repair shop and see this on a daily basis, so no one can make me believe otherwise.

  7. gassaver says:

    “increase fuel economy by 7%” WAKE UP YOUR DREAMING. The drag created by a few bugs and some dust is not going to even be measurable. There are one million better ways to improve your gas mileage. The gas it take to drive to a “simple car wash and wax at a local gas station” WILL NEVER BE RECOVERED.

  8. Sure, washing and waxing your automobile will help in the fuel economy, but it may not be enough to really make a big difference. In aviation these “bugs” or anything else that would take from the aerodynamics is called “static drag”.
    Your side mirrors are a great example. If your auto was more bullet shaped it would get better mileage, but for now leave those side mirrors, and if you think it makes the auto run better, by all means wash and wax..I do. : )

  9. Washing and waxing your car regularly is really brilliant and will help in the fuel economy. Some tips that I found in searching like this http://www.fastlanes.net/category/car-care-tips. Found here are maintenance tips for cars.

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