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Does Turning Your Air Conditioning Off Save Gas?

A woman drives a car with the window down.
PeopleImages.com – Yuri A/Shutterstock.com

Everyone is looking to save money at the gas pump right now. You might be employing fuel rewards from credit cards and grocery stores or trying to carpool. However, there’s one old wives’ tale you might be considering implementing as well.

Does turning your air conditioning off while driving help save gas? Unfortunately, this alleged hack is a bit more complicated than a plain old yes or no.

David Bennett, manager of repair systems for the American Automobile Association (AAA), told Family Handyman that your car’s air conditioning does add more work for your engine which results in more gas being used. However, the usage is so small that most people wouldn’t notice it. Plus, your car’s specific design and configuration could impact whether you’ll actually save money or not.

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If you do turn off your air conditioning in the name of saving gas, you’ll likely roll down your windows to stay cool (no one wants a hot, stuffy car). But when you do this, you could increase the drag and resistance on your car. This can lead to your vehicle using more fuel.

While there are some exceptions where you’ll be able to squeak out a bit of extra gas mileage by keeping windows down for city driving, and air conditioning on for the highway, it’s not as effective as cutting back on driving by using carpools or making sure your tire pressure is accurate and car maintenance is done.

Ultimately, your best bet is to keep your windows rolled up, run your air conditioning on a medium setting, and don’t turn your car into a sauna.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is the Assignments Editor at LifeSavvy. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer with a focus on beauty and lifestyle content. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Allure, and Hello Giggles. Read Full Bio »
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