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Top 10 Ways To Save At The Pump

Article courtesy of the Automotive Research Center


Top 10 Ways To Save At The Pump


fuel gauge The Automobile Cub of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center has investigated this by comparing the mileage motorists got on a specific route driving the way they normally do (or in several cases driving more aggressively and faster than normal) to the mileage of the same motorists on the same routes employing many of the following techniques. Mileage improvements ranged from a low of 25% to as much as 100% (from 10 mpg to 20 mpg) in the case of one who drove very aggressively for the ”baseline”.

How do you accomplish these savings? By using the combination of a few simple, correctly-employed techniques (which might also just help insure that you get to your destination safely too)!

Avoid “jack-rabbit” starts and accelerate gently: Accelerating the mass of a car uses more fuel than any other facet of driving, so imagine there is a raw egg between your right foot and the accelerator pedal and you don’t want to break it.

Slow down—not necessarily a lot, because we are all in hurry; but how about actually following the speed limit? Typically, the faster you go, the higher the aerodynamic and drivetrain friction losses, so it takes more fuel to maintain a higher speed. Remember, however, that traveling slower than the flow of traffic can cause a safety hazard. You may want to even consider driving in one of the “slower” lanes on the freeway, and let those more-aggressive drivers waste their own fuel in the “fast” lane.

Anticipate slow or stopped traffic ahead and traffic lights: When you see stopped or slow traffic or a red light at an intersection ahead, take your foot off of the accelerator earlier and coast. There is no time savings attained by zooming up to the light and then having to slam on the brakes. Cars use very little fuel when coasting, and if you are driving a hybrid, they will generally recharge the battery to further improve mileage. You may just find that if you coast up to a red street light, that by the time you get there, it will turn green and you won’t need to stop at all!

No warm up needed: There is no need to let a modern car (vintage 1980s and newer) warm up, or to race the engine upon start up. Follow the starting instructions specified in your vehicle owner’s manual; generally, it will instruct you to start the car, put it in gear, and go without having to wait and waste fuel warming up the engine.

Gas Pump

Use the air conditioner sparingly, and only when necessary. Air conditioning reduces fuel economy by placing an extra load on the engine. This is more critical for older cars (1970s vintage and older) since newer models generally have higher-efficiency air conditioning systems. However, we would not want you to be too uncomfortable, so here is our recommendation: the rule of thumb on hot days is to open your windows when you are driving slowly (under about 45 mph), but close them and turn on the air conditioner at higher speeds. Driving with the windows open can increase the aerodynamic drag, and this effect increases proportionately with speed.

Vehicle maintenance: Keep your vehicle maintained according to the manufacturer’s service schedule (that can be found in the owner’s manual). Regular oil and filter changes, plus other services will keep everything running smoothly, prolong the life of your vehicle, and save you gas in the process. The manufacturer will also recommend other, more comprehensive services at certain intervals. Spark plugs can now last as long as 100,000 miles on many new vehicles! Simple things like keeping your tires properly inflated and your vehicle aligned will not only save you up to 2% on gas for every pound they were underinflated, but also prolong the life of your tires and improve safety, ride, and handling. Track your fuel economy; if it drops suddenly, have the cause determined and corrected.

Vehicle selection: Many families have more than one vehicle, so select the one that meets the task at hand and don’t automatically jump into your “battle cruiser” when the more-fuel-efficient sedan will do. Consider renting a fuel-efficient model for vacations and long trips to save on fuel costs. Conversely, consider renting that full-size truck instead of buying it if you only need its capabilities occasionally. Put the wear and tear on the rental and save your daily driver.

“Get the junk out of your trunk”: Reducing the extra weight you carry can save up to 2% fuel economy for every 100 lbs. you remove, depending on the weight of the vehicle. Also lose the roof rack, since carrying things on a roof rack increases aerodynamic drag and reduces fuel economy – year round (no matter how cool the ski rack looks!)

Plan your route & combine trips: Simply combining shopping trips and avoiding excessive idling (by parking and going into the fast food place or bank instead of using the drive through) will save gas, and the walking may improve your health. Choose a shopping center where you can park and walk to most of the stores you need. Also look at your work schedule; can you shift your working hours to avoid bumper to bumper traffic? Is carpooling an option? Both can save you gas and reduce vehicle wear.

Gasoline: See your owner’s manual for the recommended grade of fuel for your vehicle. If it says “regular unleaded gasoline” is recommended, using anything else is a waste of money; if it says “premium required” you should use it for proper vehicle operation. However, when your manual says mid-grade or premium “recommended”, read carefully; sometimes it indicates you can use regular unleaded to save money, but you may experience reduced power and/or a small reduction in fuel economy. Keep your eye open for low fuel prices, but don’t waste gas driving to a distant filling station to save a few cents per gallon.

Hypermiling: During the summer of 2008 when gas prices set record highs, a subculture phenomenon called hypermiling appeared. This practice uses extreme and often unsafe methods (above and beyond those described here) of obtaining extremely high mpg. These methods include: drafting heavy-duty trucks by following them very closely (this is very dangerous—don’t do this!), allowing vehicle speed to drop to near zero as you approach the crest of an upgrade or hill, and then shutting off the engine and coasting down the hill (this is also not safe, since you have no power steering and limited, if any power brakes), ignoring red lights/stop signs or driving through residential neighborhoods to avoid having to stop (besides being illegal, this is also not safe, as well as annoying for the residents of the neighborhoods!) AAA recommends strongly against utilizing any of these unsafe hypermiling procedures.

Taken together, all of these strategies will save you gas and likely extend the life of your vehicle. Finally, carefully consider your requirements for the future when selecting a new vehicle, and purchase one that you can afford that fulfills your needs and not the needs of a manufacturer trying to sell their latest “Uber Wagon”.


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