- Car Care & Maintenance
How to Use Less Gasoline
Using Less Gasoline
Using less is not just a matter of the fuel you buy. In fact, most fuel is exactly the same, except for some additives, as the fuel is purchased by all major vendors from the same depots. Additives added after the tanker truck is full is what really separates the brands and these additives make up a very small percentage of the gas you buy.
Instead this hub will concentrate on things you can do to reduce your gasoline consumption. These are broken down into:
- Driving Habits
- Maintenance Habits
- Gasoline Purchases
Starting and Stopping
You've long heard the refrain "no jack-rabbit" starts and this is very true. The more "pedal to the metal" driving you do the more gasoline you use as well. This is particularly true if you do a lot of city driving with traffic lights spaced about a block apart. Just the situation of driving in this sort of traffic light rich environment will hurt your mileage.
Some cities have explored timing the lights to improve traffic flow. If that's the case find out which corridors have the timed lights and use those. Avoid the far right and left hand lanes as these two lanes typically have people turning from them.
Any interruption in your constant speed will hurt your mileage.
It's important to drive at a consistent speed at all times. Though this is nearly impossible in the city with all the traffic lights regulating traffic flow, it is quite possible to drive at a steady speed on the highway...well most highways anyway.
You can drastically improve your mileage in situations like that by using cruise control.
Drive Like Grandma (or Grandpa)
I know it sounds like a joke, but older drivers less prone to "burn rubber" from a dead stop get better mileage. They also drive slower which, believe it or not, will improve your mileage.
Air Pressure in your Tires
You should check the air pressure in your tires once a week. Try to keep the pressure in your tires within two (2) PSI (pounds per square inch) of the manufacturers recommended pressure. Put slightly more air in the front tires than the back for better steering.
Old Tires/New Tires
Old tires have less tread and have more rolling resistance. Follow the tire maker recommendations for changing your tires. Rotate them when recommended too. This way you'll get the longest life from your tires and get better gas mileage.
Air Filter Cleaning
You should check your air filter once every six months. If it's clogged with dirt it will certainly hamper the performance of your engine and that in turn will reduce your gas mileage.
Not sure if it's clean enough? Hold it up to the light. If you can see some light shining through it's probably clean enough. If not replace it. It's a cheap part (as parts go) and it will repay in better gas mileage for sure.
Spark Plug Replacement
Spark plugs are designed, for the most part, to last about two years. This is about the time interval between smog checks in those states that require them.
In older non-electronic ignition cars it's easy to know when to replace the plugs; the car will start running rough and get really poor mileage.
In new cars the Electronic Ignition Control (EIC) will push more spark to the plugs as they wear out making it almost impossible to tell when they need to be replaced. If in doubt replace them. For most cars this is the alpha and omega of a tune-up.
Engine oil wears out. It's all that heat caused by friction and the contained explosions of gasoline. As the oil wears out it gets thicker and collects more debris. As the gunk in the oil builds up it loses it's lubricating properties. This in turn will hurt your gas mileage. Simply follow the manufacturer's suggestions for oil change intervals. Don't go by the 3,000 mile recommendation from oil change stores. The recommended 6,000 mile or more interval recommended by the car maker is correct.
Gasoline is Gasoline
It really doesn't matter that much whose gas you buy. They all get it from the same depot. The only difference between "Techmon*" and "Valvoclean*" is a tiny amount of additive put into the tanker truck AFTER it has been filled with gasoline from a wide variety of sources.
In other words DO buy your gas by price not brand. It makes little difference whose name is on the label.
What Grade of Gas?
There is a common misconception that buying mid-grade or premium is better for your car. This simply isn't true. Follow the car-makers recommendation for fuel grade. Don't assume that the better grade of gas is better for your car. Just the opposite could be true.
For example I drive what is commonly considered an American Luxury Car. They recommend regular unleaded. I never put any higher grade of gas in the car and it has run fine for years. Of course this has no effect on my mileage, but it is cheaper, as much as twenty cents a gallon cheaper. That's a dollar savings for every five gallons of gasoline.
Try to find stations that sell gas at a discount. Be aware however, that some stations will slap you with a surcharge if you use a credit or debit card...thus wiping out any savings. Buy with cash.
Common Sense Gas Saving
Kill the Engine; Don't Idle
If you park shut it off. Even for a few minutes. A car sitting with the engine running is getting ZERO miles to the gallon.
Three Rights Make a Left
Got a left-hand turn in your drive that always has you sitting for minutes? See if you can make three right-hand turns instead. A right hand turn typically does not require any waiting where a left hand turn almost always involves sitting at a light waiting for oncoming traffic. Even though you might drive a few blocks farther your car is still moving; not so at a left-hand turn light.
If you aren't sure about this solution check it on Google Maps, Microsoft MapQuest, or Yahoo Maps. Find the intersection and see if three right hand turns can get you in the same direction.
Commando Gas Saving / HyperMiler
The following recommendations CAN be DANGEROUS. DO NOT ATTEMPT ANY OF THEM IF YOU ARE NOT AN EXPERIENCED DRIVER.
Unless you are on the highway (doing 50+ miles per hour) try shifting the car into neutral and coating downhill. Put the car back into gear once you lose enough speed or need to go uphill.
Sitting at a Light?
Kill the engine. This is a bit tricky because you have to start it again when the light changes. If you live in a big city this could anger the guy behind you. Use with caution.
You could also shift into neutral. A car with an automatic transmission burns more gas with your foot on the brake (to prevent rolling forward at idle) than if you put the car in neutral. Most cars with electronic engine control will idle the engine down in neutral.
When starting from a light build up speed very slowly. This is the opposite of a "jack-rabbit" start. Beware though, this could anger the guy behind you and end up being a source of stress rather than gas saving.
Keep under the speed limit. Hug the right hand lane. If the car behind you can pass don't speed up, but if you are creating a blockage attain the speed limit.
Overpressure Your Tires
This a bit questionable, but I do know that if you air your tires to the maximum allowed you'll have less rolling resistance. This will save you money.
If you can park your car so it's pointed uphill. Rather than start your car to back out let gravity do the work for you. This can be tough if you have power steering and brakes.
Stop Signs - Red Lights
Coming to a stop sign or red traffic light? Kill the engine and coast until you have to hit the brakes. This can be tough if you have power steering and brakes.
"Techmon" and "Valvoclean" are made-up names.
The author owns no stock in any gasoline, auto, auto parts, or tire manufacturing companies. The author does NOT recommend the commando gas saving/hyper miler section to any but the most experienced drivers.