Almost all modern cars are nowadays coming equipped with features designed to save you gas. Hondas are no different, and the newer Civics and C-RVs have the green ECON button.
However, the Honda ECON mode is shrouded in mystery, with it not being obvious whether you can leave the ECON button on or not… until now.
Can you leave the ECON button on? Yes, you can leave the ECON button on all the time, but I don’t recommend it. For example, on hot days, don’t turn ECON on immediately. Also don’t use it when joining high speed traffic, or on steep and twisting roads.
But why do I say this?
Well, just check the rest of the article below, because I will explain when and when you should not use ECON mode and why… there some more reasons to not use it as well.
Should the ECON button always be on?
I always have my Honda ECON button on… but that doesn’t mean I don’t switch it off when required. In short, yes, your ECON button can be on all the time, and it won’t hurt your engine, but should you?
I believe not… and here’s why.
The Honda Civic and CR-V ECON button is designed to alter various engine parameters such as throttle response, fuel injector flow, and transmission programming. All of this is being changed as you drive with one goal: to make your engine run as efficiently as possible, reducing fuel consumption, and reducing pollution.
Car manufacturers are striving for lower fuel consumption and better emissions with every new engine, so if it was beneficial to always leave the ECON button on, then there wouldn’t be a button like this at all – the economy mode would be on a permanent fixture.
The manufacturer would install an opposite switch for when you need more power. With all this in mind, the answer is again simple, whilst you can leave ECON on all the time, you shouldn’t because, in certain conditions, it might increase fuel consumption and reduce efficiency or safety.
Knowing all of this raises a more complicated question and an equally important one. When should you not turn the ECON button on?
Handy Hint: Here’s more detailed information on how ECON works in a Honda Civic.
When should you not use the ECON mode button
Here are my detailed reasons why you should not leave ECON mode on all the time in your Honda. I will caveat this, by saying that I do leave my car on ECON mode… but I do switch it off in the following circumstances.
1. Turn ECON off in high temperatures
The Honda ECON button disables the air conditioning (A/C) compressor to conserve fuel. If you’re driving around on hot day with ECON mode on, you won’t be getting the best from your air conditioning.
If the outside temperature is very hot, turn ECON button off for the first few minutes and get the A/C working properly. You can cool your Honda Civic or C-RV down, and then get turn ECON back on once the temperature is easier to handle.
2. Turn ECON off when joining high speed traffic
The Honda ECON button limits your acceleration, so when I am joining a highway (motorway in the UK) I want to be able to have full control over my acceleration. For example, I might need to suddenly speed up to merge into traffic.
If ECON is always on, I could struggle to get the speed up that I need to join fast-moving lanes of traffic. Turn it off when joining a busy road, and then turn it back on when on a flat road and steady speed.
3. Turn ECON off when driving on steep or winding roads
Similarly, I want full control when driving up a twisting road, because I want to be able pump the gas when I need it. The car will need to shift much more often on winding roads, and acceleration will be harder between turns than between stop lights.
With ECON button on always, I don’t have the same level of micro-control to my driving.
4. Turn ECON off when overtaking other vehicles on the road
If you want to overtake any vehicle, you need fast acceleration. If the ECON button is left on, you won’t have the same “punch” to your gas when pushing the pedal as you normally would.
In fact, I would go as far to say, that it’s dangerous to have the Honda ECON button on when attempting an overtaking manoeuvre.
5. Turn ECON off when towing a large load
It’s never a good idea to have ECON mode button turned on when towing. It’s all to do with the torque – you need as much as possible. If your Civic or C-RV is towing, you need as much torque to your wheels as possible.
When towing something, the engine load will increase significantly, calling for more injector flow which will be limited if the ECON is on.
When the ECON button is pushed, it reduces the torque and power. As a result, you won’t tow like you want to.
6. Turn ECON off when driving on uneven terrains
Similarly, to point 3, you need as much control and power on uneven roads. Don’t leave the ECON button on when driving on lumps, bumps, gravel, stone, or wet mud.
It would be best if you only leave ECON on when driving on mostly flat roads. Steep hills will require lower gears, and that will be a problem when you are in ECON mode as it wants to shift into higher gears as soon as possible, which will increase fuel consumption.
How the ECON mode works
The ECON button stands for “economy” and as it’s designed to save you gas, means you’re going to be tempted to press it or leave it on all the time.
The ECON mode is designed to improve fuel economy, reduce pollution, and decrease both power output and A/C performance. In some conditions, however, more power will decrease fuel consumption.
Changing gears more often will also reduce pollution in certain situations, so this programming isn’t bulletproof even though it might seem like it at first.
So here are the specific driving conditions in which you should use the ECON mode.
You will benefit most from it when driving on the highway, as there is no need to change gears that often anyway, and throttle input will be around 20% to 60%, which is where the ECON altered the throttle response the most.
Everyday slow urban driving, between stop lights, for example, will also benefit as not much power is needed, and the car can shift into a higher gear sooner.
An average car’s ECU has more computing power than the computer that had put a man on the moon, so it’s a complicated piece of equipment. There are so many different parameters that I can’t even count, but luckily the parameter that the ECON button changes are few, and they are as follows:
The ECON will alter throttle response most in the mid-range of the pedal travel, where it will be in most driving. Making the throttle less responsive or laggy will increase efficiency by making the throttle input more gradual and linear.
ECON will change the gear shifting
ECU will order the transmission to keep a higher gear engaged for longer than it usually would, sacrificing some performance in everyday driving conditions. In harsher ones like overtaking where lower gear is necessary, it will decrease efficiency.
Once you set the cruise control to a certain speed, the car will do everything to maintain that exact speed. Once you turn the ECON on, the vehicle will be allowed to lose some momentum going uphill to avoid shifting into a lower gear and increasing fuel consumption.
Aircon is a significant parasitic auxiliary that can increase fuel consumption by up to 20% in some cases. Turning the ECON on will allow you to run the a/c but lower the fuel consumption by limiting its performance.
Air fuel mixture
The optimal air-fuel mixture varies depending on specific driving conditions but only slightly. Turning the ECON on will keep the air-fuel mixture on the lower end of the spectrum, sacrificing performance but reducing pollution.
Can you push the ECON button while driving?
Yes, you can push the ECON button while driving a Honda. Turning ECON on when driving, or turning ECON off when driving, will have no damaging effects. It’s how it’s meant to be used.
Does the ECON button save gas?
The ECON button is intended to save gas, so yes, but not in all driving conditions. In certain driving conditions, it might increase fuel consumption.
Should the ECON button always be on?
The short answer is no. The ECON button is best used only in certain conditions, and if you use it in the wrong circumstances, it might be counterproductive.
How much gas can ECON save?
The ECON button can save up to 5% of fuel for specific cars in the right driving conditions.
Does ECON mode save gas on the highway?
The ECON mode will be most beneficial in highway driving conditions. Just be sure to leave it off until you merge.
Honda say that by pressing the ECON button you can improve your fuel efficiency by one to two miles per gallon.
Whilst this probably isn’t entirely true, it can save you gas… but only if you know when to leave the ECON button on, and when not to use it.