By Russ and Tiña De Maris
We recently got a “news item” from a Wyoming Dodge pickup dealer marked with the headline: “Removing a truck’s tailgate can boost fuel efficiency.” The balance of this news story was a set of instructions on how to remove the tailgate, and advice on not leaving the tailgate loose inside the pickup bed.
Is there any truth to the idea that you’ll save fuel with the tailgate off the truck or simply left down? It’s been one of those “kick it around the campfire” issues for ages. The thinking of tailgate-less proponents is that the closed gate creates wind drag, thus reducing fuel efficiency. Consumer Reports put the idea to the test.
Using a 2013 Dodge Ram pickup equipped with a V8 powerplant, the good folks stuck on an inline fuel meter and ran the truck up and down the highway at 65 mph. With the tailgate up, fuel economy stood at 22.3 miles per gallon. Dropping the gate actually dropped the fuel economy to 21.5 miles per gallon, a 4 percent loss.
Interestingly, the CR team also checked for what difference the use of a tonneau cover would make. No tonneau, gate up: 22.3 mpg. Put on a soft tonneau cover, the mileage dropped dramatically to 21.4 mpg.
The fact that fuel economy drops when the tailgate does should not be a great surprise. Other testers have shown using wind-tunnel tests that wind-drag actually does increase with the tail gate down or taken off the vehicle.