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Poor gas mileage on 2009 Chrysler Town and Country

Last May I purchased a 2009 Chrysler T&C from a used car dealership. We needed a vehicle with more seating. We got one with loads of storage space and power features, which we were pleased about. We thought we did our research before hand and found that we could expect 17 city and 20 highway (fueleconomy.org) for a combined 19mpg. I have NEVER seen that! At the best its has reached about 18. My current mpg is 12.5. WHAT??? I have taken the usual suggestions, speed up slower, break gradually. I get the vehicle serviced regularly and maintain good tire pressure. The filter isn’t bad. There are no concerns with the vehicle’s performance, other than the poor gas mileage. I don’t haul anything and I try to keep the “junk” cleaned out…so all I’m carrying in the vehicle is my family and what came in the vehicle.

What else could I do? I’ve done internet searches and haven’t found any of the regular “how to get better gas mileage” suggestions that I haven’t already tried. Could it be an issue with the car? Do I need to get something replaced?

The two things to have checked out is a thermostat that may be partially stuck open or a faulty coolant temp sensor for the computer.

Tester

After Tester’s advice, you might start wondering about oxygen sensors, though I think if that was a problem, your check engine light should be on. Is it? If it is, your shop should be able to read the stored codes and know what to fix.

One other unlikely possibility is if the transmission is not reaching top gear (overdrive and lockup). Have your shop take it for a drive to confirm that it is shifting properly. Then again, if your usual driving is mostly in-town stop and go, your mileage will suffer drastically. You might take a weekend road trip and measure mileage carefully to see if there’s much difference. But start with Tester’s suggestions.

It seems your T&C is fairly loaded meaning you have either a 3.8 or 4.0 liter V6. Both are rated for 16 city and 23 for highway mpg. While you are far off those numbers it isn’t that unusual to not get the epa mpg in real world driving. For instance if you idle the car to keep it warm or cold while waiting for the kids, or the school bus; running the motor when you aren’t moving kills gas mileage. If you live in an area with more than average hills, you’ll get less mpg. Oxygenated fuels (and ethanol) reduce mpg. If you live in Denver or a high altitude you’ll get less mpg.

The epa numbers allow you to compare vehicles, but they also create expectations that you’ll get those numbers in normal daily driving. In many cases the reality doesn’t meet that expectation. Make sure your tires are inflated the proper pressure. Have a mechanic check the brakes to be sure you don’t have a “dragging” brake. Keep the car tuned up with new plugs and air filter as per manufacturers recommendations.

Next time you need tires make sure you buy LRR (low rolling resistance) tires. On your van the tires can make a big difference in mpg. Michelin LRR tires can get you 5-10% better mpg than most standard radial tires. Other manufacturers of tires are also putting out very good LRR tires.

Let’s make sure we know what engine you have. The 4L gets 17 MPG city, 25 MPG highway and 20 MPG combined. The 3.8L gets 16/23/18. There is also a 3.3L engine that gets 17/24/19 with gasoline and 11/16/13 with E85.

Next, how do you drive the car? Is it highway, city, or a mix?

If you have the 3.3L and use E85, your mileage is good. If you have the 3.8L, one user at fueleconomy.gov gets 16.6 MPG with 60% city and 40% highway. If your driving is all city, it could be much worse than 16 MPG based o the responders mileage. There is also one responder for the 3.3L with 50% highway and 50% city that gets 14 MPG. You could check other years to see if anyone posted their mileage.

Is that 12.5 MPG a strictly highway figure or does that mean combined? Just wanting to clarify that point.

well I have an '09 Caravan with the 3.3 flex fuel engine and 4 speed automatic, I usually buy gas at Quick Trip and it is part ethinol and I get about 18 mpg in combined driving. I surely do like the "slap stick) transmission. I barely can feel it shift.

Thank you for the answers. Here are some clarifying factors. Our van is a 3.8 L (not the E85). My driving is mostly in city. I’m a “soccer mom”. I know I’d get better gas mileage on the freeway, but I limit my driving to errands and play-dates mostly because of my poor gas mileage. Most of my car trips are 5 miles round trip or less. I don’t spend much time “idling”. If I know if my car will sit for more than 1 minute, I’ll turn it off rather than idling. Also, my tires are checked at every oil change. I have an electronic monitoring of tire pressure, and keep them up to suggested pressure. And the check engine light is not on, so I don’t think it’s the oxygen sensor. I will look into the tips that “Tester” has given.

Last time I had my car serviced I asked the attendant if there was anything they could do. I mentioned that I’d have to sell the vehicle and get something else if it couldn’t get better mpg. They ran some sort of cleaner through the gas line. They said it was more powerful than gas additives you can get at auto stores. They said that I should be seeing at least a 1-2 mpg improvement. If anything its 1-2 mpg worse now. I live in high elevation. We’ve had a TON of snow and it has been very cold, which I’m sure is a factor. I probably will sell it and get something with better mpg, but feel guilty just handing the problem over to someone else. I’d like to see it get at least 16, which I think is “fair” for the age and in-city driving I do.

Sad to say but given your geography and driving habits I’m hardly surprised at your fuel mileage. Higher elevations means thinner air and poorer mpg. Short trips means the vehicle barely ever gets to maximum operating efficiency and that means lower mpg too. The service station simply lined their pockets selling you the fuel additive because as you soon found out their is no magic elixir to increase efficiency.

Mike

The sister vehicle is the Dodge Caravan. I have a couple friends with them, and I’m surprised because they get 18-20 in the same conditions. I’m thinking there has to be something wrong with my vehicle.

Sell it. But, you have to buy something much smaller and lighter. You can’t a Dodge Caravan and expect it to be better, most likely you’ll be just as disappointed and out more money.

See if you can live with a Honda Fit. Then be happy if the Fit gets significantly less mpg than the EPA sticker indicates. At a high elevation, cold weather, and 100% city stop and go driving it can’t meet the EPA numbers in that kind of driving. You really sound like a perfect candidate for a Hybrid or a Chevy Volt.

“Most of my car trips are 5 miles round trip or less”

That probably explains most of it.
Gas with 10% ethanol may account for the rest.
How long do you warm it up before you drive off?
No need to idle more than ~30 seconds if it’s above freezing.
Below freezing maybe a minute or two.

@CindyLewWho, you should drive at least 20 minutes continuously once a week to fully warm up the car. You can also drive away as soon as you start it, unless you want to warm up the inside for your passengers. It won’t hurt the car either way. The short drives are hard on the car though, and the longer drive once per week can evaporate any moisture that collects. BTW, be certain that your friends also drive a few miles at a time and never take half hour to hour drives.

I'm thinking there has to be something wrong with my vehicle.

If your friends have the larger Grand Caravan, and if they also drive mostly short trips as you do, then there may well be something wrong with your T&C. The short wheelbase Caravan should do better than the larger minivans. What you’ve described as your typical use for this car will create poor mileage, but maybe not quite as bad as you report.

I still think that you need to see what kind of mileage you get on the highway. I’d imagine you should be close to 20mpg, maybe better. If it were mine, I’d fill the tank, go off for the weekend doing mostly highway driving, fill the tank at the usual place when I got home, and do the math to get my mileage. That removes the short trips when you don’t go far enough to get the engine to operating temperature, and also eliminates the gas guzzling effect of stop and go driving. If your trip mileage is still very low (15ish??), then follow Tester’s suggestions. Both of those items could explain your poor mileage.

I think the key to your mileage is that most of your driving is round trips of 5 miles or less, Your car is not ever getting fully warmed up. That takes 7-10 miles. If you drove longer distances you would get better mileage, but you would also be spending more money for gas,

My vote is that the 12.5 MPG is normal for the type of driving being done.