America has a fascination for automobiles perhaps matched only by the desire for real estate. If only petrol was as cheap and abundant as water. But it’s not. The price of gasoline is as volatile as the substance itself. Fuel expenses can quickly burn a hole in your pocket, money that could be better used for more unavoidable expenses. Here’s a checklist of things you can do to avoid wasting fuel.
Efficient driving saves money
Leave stunts to the stuntmen. You’re not shooting a movie, there’s no camera (except the one from highway patrol that will catch you overspeeding). No kidding. Efficient driving will keep you healthy physically and financially.
- Be sensible. Speeding, rapid acceleration and braking wastes gas. It can lower your mileage by as much as 33% on the freeway, and 5% in city traffic. Sensible driving will also minimize the chances of accidents. Even when you’re insured, the man-days lost to downtime can cost you big time.
- Don’t ride the clutch. Use the clutch only when changing gears or coming to a complete halt. Excessive use of the clutch and shifting gears eats up fuel.
- Use the right gear. Don’t rev up the car and don’t crawl along on high gear either. Follow the recommended gear pattern of 10-15 kms for first gear, 15-25 for second, 25-35 for third, 35-45 for fourth and 50 plus for the 5th gear. As you speed up, you should reach the highest gear to optimize the fuel consumption.
- Stay within speed limits. Other than preventing you from doing harm to yourself and others, staying within speed limits actually helps you conserve fuel. Each vehicle reaches optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), but gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph. Keep in mind that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.26 per gallon for gas.
- Keep the weight down. Offload all unnecessary stuff. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your mileage by up to 2 percent. This reduction is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle’s weight and affects smaller vehicles more than larger ones.
- Avoid excessive idling. It can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use. Turn the engine off when parked. It only takes a few seconds worth of fuel to restart the vehicle.
Keep your car in shape
Proper maintenance and spare parts can be expensive, but if you fall behind on car maintenance you might be spending more for fuel than you should.
- Keep tires properly inflated. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. Properly inflated tires are safer and last longer.
- Keep the engine tuned. Fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve mileage by as much as 40%.
- Replaced clogged filters. Replacing a clogged air filter on an older car with a carburated engine may improve fuel economy 2 to 6 % under normal replacement conditions or up to 14% if the filter is so clogged that it significantly affects driveability.
Little things matter
Those seemingly unimportant decisions that you make in a normal driving day can add up to a lot if they happen often enough. Some things you need to keep in mind:
- Park in the shade. Gas in your tank will actually evaporate if your car is sitting in the sun for too long. If you can’t find a shady parking spot, then try parking your car so it faces the opposite direction of the sun. Buy a windshield shade as well, and be sure to keep the sun roof closed at all times.
- Park ASAP. Take the first available parking slot. Don’t go round and round in circles trying to look for one that’s more to your liking. Chances are you’re looking for parking space that will minimize the distance you’ll have to walk. Unless you’re parking outdoors and it’s raining, there’s absolutely no excuse for avoiding those extra strides.
- Fill it up all the way and don’t wait to run on empty. A full tank has less ability to vaporize fuel and there is less moisture-laden air (that condenses into water) that can fit. Not only that, there’s a greater chance of damaging the electric fuel pump if by you run the car on less than a quarter of a tank.
Use the car less, or not at all
This, of course, is the best of all. Leave your car at home if you can. Plan its use wisely so you can do in one trip what would usually take you three. Do it regularly and you might be surprised at how much less trips to the gas station you’ll need to make.
- Do it all in one trip. It’s all a matter of scheduling. Do all your errands and shopping when you’re either driving to work, or coming home from work. Resist the urge to drive to the grocery for a single item that’s missing from your recipe. Be creative.
- Create a carpool. Split the cost of gas with a friend or co-worker and cut down on your gas costs by 50%. Take turns on who gets to bring the car for particular days or weeks of the month.
- Public transportation is cool. Unless you have an unhealthy attachment to your car, or you’re a teenager looking to impress, taking the bus or train to and from work is fun. It helps you reconnect with the vibe on the streets and the public pulse. Look for daily, weekly, or even monthly passes to cut down on transportation costs.
- Ride a bike or walk. If the weather outside is glorious, and where you’re going is just a few blocks away, why waste the sunshine or breeze by taking a car? Save your fuel for the rainy days.
- Owner-related fuel economy improvements
- Fuelly.com: member tips for improving mileage
Got any tips you want to add to the list?
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