How to Improve an Xterra's Fuel Economy

by Will Charpentier

Let's face it; the Nissan Xterra can be a gas-hog under the best of circumstances. If you own an Xterra with four-wheel drive and go off-road frequently, your mileage is probably worse than someone who owns one with two-wheel drive. Even so, there are a number of common sense things you can do to wring that last mile out of every gallon.

Slow down. Even if the miles you travel are "highway miles," as speed increases, fuel consumption increases. Most Interstate Highways have a 70 mile per hour speed limit; if you drive 80 miles per hour, you get there faster--by 8-1/2 seconds per mile. Over 100 miles, that means you arrive about a minute and a half earlier.

Limit your "four-wheeling." This may be a major recreational activity for you, but it increases fuel consumption by about 20% over normal highway driving.

Don't buy cheap gas. As odd as this seems, your Xterra was designed to deliver its best performance using a mid-grade or premium gasoline. This means a higher cost at the pump, but also better mileage. While you're at the gas station, check your tire pressure; incorrect pressures lower gas mileage.

Keep track of your activities and keep track of your mileage. Use one of the two trip meter settings to track your mileage by resetting it every time you pull into the gas station. Keep your receipts for gasoline in the glove box or console and take note of the mileage before you clear the trip meter. Use a calculator to determine just how many miles you got out of your last gasoline purchase by diving the number of miles traveled by the number of gallons purchased. Compare your activities in the vehicle to the mileage; you'll be surprised how much gasoline certain activities consume.

Use the cruise control when you're on the highway. Nothing eats up more gasoline in long-distance travel than constantly varying your speed. Set the cruise control at or just below the speed limit. People will pass you, perhaps get upset with you, but your mileage will improve and you can take comfort in the thought that, if a State Trooper is lurking around the next bend, you can wave at the person who passed you--as he sits on the side of the road while the Trooper gives him a "fast-driving award."

Tip

  • check Stop-and-go driving lowers your mileage. Don't rush up to traffic lights; slow down when you approach a red light. Give it time to turn green and allow the people in front of you to get moving.

Warning

  • close Remember to turn your cruise control off in heavy traffic or in a city.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.