Get the best gas mileage from your conversion van


Conversion trucks don’t boast best-in-class fuel mileage numbers as they do with the number of fun adventures they’ve been on, but they can offer fuel economy if maintained regularly. The typical conversion van will get about 12-16 miles per gallon (mpg), depending on the model. Let’s explore the factors that affect fuel economy and how to get the best fuel economy out of your truck.

Conversion vans and fuel efficiency

Weight is a primary enemy of fuel efficiency. Most security technologies have added weight. Carrying more weight means the engines need to produce more power.

Mark owns a 2002 Chevy Express High Top Conversion Van. He drives the van about 70% highway with cruise control on and the rest in town. His van is equipped with a wheelchair lift, which adds weight. “My gas mileage is 10 mpg.”

Susan owns a 15-passenger 2001 Chevy Express van on a 1-ton chassis. “I bought it used with almost 40,000 miles. About four years later, I got a tune-up at 91,000 miles. My truck still averages 10-11 mpg.” The 30-gallon fuel tank on her truck allows for a total trip of 390 to 320 miles before she needs to stop for fuel.

According to the US Department of Energy, Mark and Susan’s Chevy Express trucks should get 14 mpg, combined city and highway.

If you ask different owners of the same conversion van models, they get 15 to 18 mpg. What is your secret?

Weather conditions (wind), truck maintenance, road conditions (hills, traffic congestion, etc.), and city or highway driving are some of the factors that affect your truck’s gas mileage. Driving in the city brings the average down very quickly. The only mileage you can reliably compare between vans is highway (non-city) mileage at the same speed.

8 Helpful Tips for Converting Van Gas Mileage

The gas mileage of any vehicle is affected by driving style (if you are an aggressive driver, for example), speed, driving conditions, and vehicle maintenance.

Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas and can reduce gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent in the city. Safe driving is safer for you, pedestrians, and other drivers, so you can save more than just gas money.

While every truck reaches its optimum fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds); Gas mileage typically drops off rapidly at speeds above 50 mph.

Every 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an extra $0.25 per gallon for gas.

Here are some tips to ensure you get the best fuel economy:

  1. Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
  2. Check that the engine air filter is clean.
  3. Plugs. Do you have the correct ones? Is the gap ok? Check all three on the front; they are easier to access.
  4. Does the torque converter lock up? When you drive at a constant speed of around 40-45mph the converter should lock up so the rpm drops to around 500.
  5. Check engine oil and transmission fluid levels. Have you had regular oil changes or is the engine clogged?
  6. Avoid excessive idling. Idling can use from a quart to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and AC usage. Turn off the engine when your vehicle is parked. It only takes a few seconds of fuel to restart your vehicle.
  7. Use cruise control. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and will, in most cases, save gas.
  8. Eliminate excessive weight. An extra 100 pounds on your vehicle could lower your mpg by as much as 2 percent.

How to Calculate Your Van’s Gas Mileage Conversion

The best way to calculate gas mileage for your conversion van is to divide the miles driven (as recorded on your odometer) by the gallons of fuel used. You can also use the trip computer’s miles per gallon calculation, if your model truck is equipped with one.

Your truck conversion trip computer may display Remote Control for Vacuum (DTE). DTE is an estimate of how many more miles you can drive based on the amount of gas in the tank and your recent fuel economy. It will automatically reset when you fill the tank and will depend on your driving style, speed and fuel economy. The DTE may reflect if you use a heavy foot throttle.

The DTE will be more accurate as you use up gas, as it tells you how much is left. It does not subtract from the initial number; For example, the DTE reads 300 miles, but you drive 150 miles and now the DTE reads 200 miles.

The US Department of Energy has a handy Annual Fuel Cost Calculator to help you estimate what your annual and lifetime fuel costs may be.