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How to Improve your Mini MPG

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How to Improve your Mini MPG

When was the last time you checked your gas mileage?  Checking the gas mileage in many modern cars is a simply matter of pressing a button the one dash and reading the number.  The problem with these later cars is that it is difficult to change them much with adjustments or upgrades.  We have the opposite problem with our early cars, it is easy to adjust (or miss-adjust) things that can make some very big changes in your mileage but finding a way to measure it in real-time while driving is not easy or cheap.

So what are the components that we have control of that will impact MPG?  Strange as it might sound, it really is almost the exact same things that we have dealt with all these years as we worry about horsepower; Ignition, and fuel.   Here are a few other things that can help.



Tire Pressure Gauge With Flex HoseBefore we get into some details we should not overlook one of the most obvious- if your tires are not inflated high enough, they will produce more drag resulting in lower gas mileage.  

The softer your tires are, the greater the friction between the road and the rubber, and the harder your engine will have to work to move the car. When we check the tire pressure on our customer's cars, we notice that they are often nowhere near the recommended pressure. Here's why it matters: Under-inflated tires lower gas mileage by 0.4 percent for every one pound of drop in pressure of all four tires. So, if you're down by 10 pounds... you're losing 4 percent in fuel economy.

Check out tire pressure gauges by clicking here.



The fuel economy of any Mini can be impacted by a few basics.  What is the conditionK&n Element Round of your air filter?  What kind of air filter do you have?  The stock air filter is paper and even when new is restrictive.  The most stock air filter should be changed at least every 6 months. 
By the time you can see dirt on them you have already waited too long.

The stock air filter on the Mini, whether it is a twin or single carb set-up, has the paper filter in a plastic or metal housing.  An option to upgrade the filter for not only a longer life but better gas mileage is to replace the stock paper with a high flow K&N type filter.  The K&N filter not only has inherent better airflow but can also be cleaned and reused.  The stock filter as used on a single 1 ½” and some 1 ¾” carbs is MSF1008, the upgraded K&N version of this filter is E-2601.  Later model fuel injected Minis use the stock filter GFE1143, the K&N upgrade is E-9172.  The most popular way to upgrade the air filter is to completely replace the plastic housing and paper filter with a complete assembly from K&N. 

Check out Mini Mania's selection of Classic Mini Air Filters by clicking here.



Spark plugs should be the next area of attention.  While it is very unlikely that a fresh set of plugs will help your gas mileage, it is important to change them simply so you Spark Plug For Aluminum Cylinder Head - Autolite 4164can some method to help determine if the carb is set correctly.  A quick inspection of the spark plug can provide at least provide some insight if the car is running rich (poor gas mileage) or lean (could burn a piston).

There is not much science in this method as the subjective judgment of color is not all clear.  And of course, it very much depends on how the car was driven just before the plugs are inspected.  In general, it can be said if the porcelain around the tip of the plugs are black and sooty (not oily) then the carb is running rich.  If the plug is all white- then the carb is lean.  It is the ability to evaluate shads of black, white and grey is where the subjective process comes in.

Check out Mini Mania's selection of spark plugs by clicking here.



So now, what do you do if you find black or white spark plugs? The Minis’ of all years until they finally upgraded to fuel injection had one sort of SU carb or another.  As such, all of these cars have a choice of carb needles and adjustments.  While the most common adjustment is the idle screw, the mixture adjustment is next most common.  Regretfully, it is also the most commonly miss-adjusted.  Reading the colorColortune Fuel Mixture Gauge of the spark plugs can help get you in the ball park, but if you really want to get the best mileage, a little more sophistication is in order. 

There are a number of choices, everything from a complete dyno tune-up to the simple use of an exhaust gas analyzer.  The options for the do-it-yourselfer are more limited. One option to consider is the use of a “Colortune”.  The Colortune is a unique spark plug with a glass top that shows up the fuel/air ratio in a colored form. 

Check out the Colortune Fuel Mixture Gauge by clicking here.



Something as simple as changing your oil could also result in a small improvement in MPG.  The Mini is very unique in that the same oil is used for the transmission that is Classic Mini Engine Oil, 20w-50, 5l Jugused for the engine. 

The standard practice is to use a very lightweight oil, 5W30, to reduce drag and improve mileage. And this works in a Mini but remember that the oil will need to be changed very often as it get very beat up in the tranny as is circulates to the engine.

Get Oil & Oil Filters here.

If you are comfortable that you have all the easy things under control and you still want to do more, here is a short list of things that will take some real time and effort but are sure to pay back in improved ‘Miles-Per-Gallon’.

*  The transmission final drive ratio in most Minis was set for the highway speeds of the 60’s.  With today’s demands of high speed driving, dropping the final drive from a common 3.44:1 to say a 3.1:1 or even a 2.95:1 will yield a noticeable improvement and even a longer engine life.

* When building a Mini engine if gas mileage is to be considered be sure to aim for a compression ratio of no more than 9:1. Better mileage and cheaper gas will result.

* Using a single 1 ½” SU carb on a 1275cc motor will for sure yield better MPG than a 1 ¾”.  If you are really serious you will also run 145 tires in place of the more common upgrade to 165 (The wider the tire the more rolling resistance).

Drive Wise


Transportation consumes about 25 percent of the total energy used in the United States. Driving releases harmful chemicals and other air pollutants into the air. When, where, how, why and what you drive all play an important role in affecting air pollution. Here are some suggestions on how to be more environmentally friendly when you need to get somewhere.

  • Drive less, especially during peak traffic periods or hot days.
  • Use public transportation, walk, or ride a bike.
  • Shop by phone, mail or Internet.
  • Telecommute. Even one day a week will make a big difference.
  • Combine your errands into one trip.
  • Avoid revving or idling engine over 30 seconds.
  • Avoid waiting in long drive-thru lines, for example, at fast-food restaurants or banks. Park your car and go in.
  • Accelerate gradually, maintain speed limit and use cruise control on the highway.
  • Follow your owner's manual on recommendations for maximum economic efficiency.
  • Use an energy-conserving (E.C.) grade of motor oil.
  • Minimize use of air conditioning if you can.
  • Get regular engine tune ups and car maintenance checks (especially for the spark plugs).
  • Use EPA-certified facilities for air conditioner repair.
  • Find out if materials are recycled when you change your tires, "throw away" your car or change car fluids. Ask before your car is serviced and consider going to someone who is environmentally friendly.
  • Replace your car's air filter and oil regularly. 
  • Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned.
  • Repair all vehicle leaks promptly.
  • Fill gas tank during cooler evening hours to cut down on evaporation. Avoid spilling gas and don't "top off" the tank. Replace gas tank cap tightly.
  • Don't ignore the "check engine" or "service engine soon" light if it comes on. Make an appointment with your repair technician for diagnosis soon.