Get Better Gas Mileage and Save Money: Five Easy Tips
Gas Prices Are Always Creeping Higher
No one but the “Big Oil” barons likes the high price of gas; everyone else likes to save money. Outside of trading in your current car for a hybrid or full-electric vehicle, which not many can afford to do, what else is left?
There are quite a few things that can help improve your mileage and keep more of your dollars in your own wallet.
1. Keep Your Car Tuned Up
A car or truck in good running order uses less gas, and uses the gas it does consume more efficiently.
If your engine is missing, if the timing is off, if the oil is dirty, if your coolant is low and the engine is running hot, those are all things that will siphon money out of your pocket.
Don’t forget to check the transmission fluid as well. If it’s low or dirty, that will affect your mileage as well. Anything from the engine out to the exhaust: the drive train as it’s called, has the potential to rob you of cash if not kept in good working order.
"Tune up" means something a bit different than it used to before the age of electronic computer-controlled engines, as the video below explains, but the principles remain the same.
(Note that this video seems to be aimed at service professionals, given that it seems to put some emphasis on making money for the shop. That aside, it's nonetheless in easy-to-understand terms.)
What is Meant by "Tune-Up"?
2. Tire Pressure is Important
Checking the air pressure in the tires is a simple task that can be done in less than 10 minutes, and is a major factor in improving MPG.
If your tires are low on air, even a little bit, they cause more drag as you roll along, and that reduces your gas mileage more than you might think.
More isn’t necessarily better, however; over-inflated tires will wear out sooner, and can be dangerous. Remember: heat causes things to expand, including air, so a tire that is over-inflated can blow out due to this expansion. Heat buildup is not only from daytime temperatures, but also from the friction of the road as you drive along.
Be sure to check the manufacturer specifications for your car to get the proper inflation. Often, the proper inflation can be found on a sticker on the inside edge of the driver’s door. Keep in mind that this applies only to the tires that came with the car, or same-type replacements. If you change to a different type or size of tire, ask the tire store about the correct inflation pressure for those tires.
Tire pressure gauge with hose extension; easiest to use if valve stem is at an awkward angle to reach.
When checking your tire pressure, it is best to do so in the cool of the morning, or late evening, after the tires have cooled. This way, you will not get a false reading indicating a higher pressure than when the tires are cold.
A simple tire gauge is easy to use, and not expensive. If you do not know how to check the pressure yourself, or are physically unable to do so, most tire shops will check and adjust your pressure for free. In fact, this is probably your best option, if you really want to save money. In these days of self-service gas stations, very few still offer air; those that do are inclined to charge money, and there is no help; you do it all yourself.
How to Check Tire Pressure
3. Don’t Play Race Cars
It sounds obvious, but bears repeating: don’t speed. Stay at the posted speed limits. The faster you go, the faster you burn through your fuel. It’s simple physics. Judging from all the people you see on the road disregarding the speed limits, I often wonder if they have a wealthy relative to buy their gas for them.
Indy Cars get less than 2 miles per gallon at the speeds they travel; you won’t come close to those speeds on public roads, but the principle holds.
The other reasons for not speeding are on the safety side of the fence; I’ll not belabor the point further than this gentle reminder: more fatal crashes happen at high speeds.
4. You’re Not on a Drag Strip
When starting up from a stop light or stop sign, accelerate evenly and slowly, getting up to speed gradually. You don’t need to ‘beat the other guy off the line.’ It’s not a drag race. Such “jack-rabbit” starts radically reduce your gas mileage by causing a huge surge of fuel to be pulled in to get you going.
Top-fuel dragsters use up nearly 23 gallons of fuel just to start up, stage, do their ‘burnouts’ and run the 1/4 mile. That’s a pretty sorry figure; you don’t want to use up fuel that fast. Again, on public roads, you won’t be doing those things (at least I hope not!), yet again, the same principles apply; tromping on the accelerator at every start equals poor MPG.
Many roads with signals are set for a certain speed; go too fast, and you'll hit every red light. Every time you need to stop and start again, you use extra gas anyway, so try to match the exact speed limit (traffic permitting), and you'll increase your mileage. How often do you see people stomping on the gas to get the jump on every one else, only to end up at the very next red light? I see it a lot, and I wouldn't want their gas bill!
(The video below is not a 'top fuel' car, but a stock car; however, the same principles apply.)
Burning up Gallons Going Nowhere
5. Cool It
As we’ve seen before, heat causes things to expand, and this includes gasoline. So the final tip is this: do not fill your tank in the heat of the day, because the gas will expand, and in effect, cause a false reading on the pump. You’ll actually get less gas than you really paid for. Fill up early in the day, or late in the evening. Let the gas expand in your tank, not in theirs or as it comes up through the pump.
Also, while pumping gas, do not lock the handle setting to the fastest flow. This will cause the gas to foam up a bit, again giving you less than a complete fill, meaning another trip to the gas station sooner than later.
Take it slow; pump it without using the locking tab, and you’ll do your budget a favor.
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