When we get a new test car to review each week, I love when they include an Instant MPG reading on their information display. More and more new cars are displaying this information built-in, which is meant to help you get the best fuel efficiency possible. And it works! I notice myself paying attention to the display, seeing how high I can keep the MPG reading, and being lighter on the throttle, which gets me much better fuel economy in everyday driving. Most cars do not have this read-out, however.
A new device on the market will add this functionality to any vehicle (1996 or newer,) along with several other useful features you won’t find built-in to any new cars. Fuel Efficiency Adviser plugs into your OBD-II port, usually under your dash, and gathers readings directly from your car’s computer. After the software connects to the car’s computer (only takes a few seconds,) the Fuel Efficiency Adviser instantly displays four readings – Instant MPG, Average MPG, Current Trip Cost ($) and Cost so far today. Mount the device somewhere convenient with the included velcro strips, and start driving as the screen updates with your fuel economy numbers. That’s not all…
Along with reading your MPG and displaying it in a useful fashion, the Fuel Efficiency Adviser can display loads of other data which you can customize, displaying up to four metrics on-screen at once:
- Tachometer (RPM)
- Manifold Pressure
- Battery Voltage
- Coolant Temp.
- Intake Air Temp.
- Engine Load
- Ignition Timing
- Throttle Position
- Open/Closed Loop
- Maximum Speed
- Average Speed
- Maximum Coolant Temperature
- Maximum RPM
- Driving Time
- Driving Distance
- Fuel Used
- Distance to Empty
- Time to Empty
- Fuel to Empty
The device can also read and clear “check engine” codes, helping you diagnose problems with the car without taking it in to the mechanic.
We tested a Fuel Economy Adviser, and found it to help increase fuel economy just as much as a built-in MPG reading. The Current Trip Cost and Cost so far Today readings help remind you why you’re doing this, once you see how much driving actually costs in fuel. While you can just plug it in and go, you won’t get accurate readings until you configure some settings. Going into the menu, the first things to set are engine size, gas tank size, fuel type (gas, diesel, propane, hybrid,) and units of measure. For some reason, you can only input tank size in whole numbers, so if your tank is 16.2 gallons, round to 16.
The box it comes in has everything you need, including the cable, velcro strips, a manual, and a quick start guide. Pay attention to the quick start guide, because it quickly shows you how to set up the device and what to do on your first and second fill-ups, where you input the price and amount of fuel you pump. This helps keep the cost readings accurate.
Navigating around the different screens is unintuitive, and can get confusing when you’re trying to find a certain screen or menu, which could be better laid out in the software. The problem mostly stems from the outdated LCD matrix screen, which causes menu obfuscation and requires the display to show strange abbreviations that are hard to remember due to the lack of available characters. This needs to be replaced with a larger, slightly more expensive (but invaluably more intuitive) graphic LCD display.
Ultimately, the Fuel Efficiency Adviser is a great little device to keep you conscious of your driving habits and increase overall fuel efficiency, while providing even more functionality for those of us who like extra data. The nice thing is that it actually does help save fuel, unlike many of the devices you’ll find in the back of car magazines promising to increase fuel economy by 30% from putting a magnet around your fuel line. The manufacturer says you will make up the cost of the device in fuel savings in only 12 weeks. Without doing the math, I think it will take most drivers a bit longer than that, but it will pay for itself regardless.
Would I recommend buying it? Yeah, I think most drivers would save money if they kept it connected to the car all the time. Make sure to mount it in a place that you will be looking at it regularly, but making sure it’s not in the way of other gauges. Also be sure you place it somewhere you won’t be hitting it all the time. The picture above shows it mounted below the climate controls, and I’ve seen it mounted at the bottom of some instrument panels.
Leave a comment below if you’ve used the Fuel Efficiency Adviser or similar device, or if your car ha built-in MPG meter, and if it helps you save fuel.
Disclosure: Writer was provided a test model of product for purposes of review