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What Are Tips on Saving Gas (And Money) While Driving?

Updated on April 4, 2018
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Leonard Kelley holds a bachelor's in physics with a minor in mathematics. He loves the academic world and strives to constantly explore it.

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I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have seen commercials offering some gadget to install in your car or some additive to put into your fuel in order to enhance your car's fuel economy. But through some simple technique changes in how you drive you can enhance your car's fuel economy without making any additional purchases or additions to your vehicle. Mine used to be 30 mpg but now is 40 mpg! Read on to see if you too can utilize these ideas.

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Put it in Neutral

Most cars have and automatic and have a P (Park), R (Reverse), N (Neutral), D (Drive), and S/O (Second or Overdrive) choices to engage the engine in. While we mainly use the P, R, and D, the N has some useful applications. Simply put, the neutral setting disengages the gears and allows the car to move without the drive shaft slowing it down. So why is this useful?

For one, it allows the car to coast more efficiently. The gears will slow the car down when you are not using the accelarator, so by removing that element of resistance the car will continue on with its forward momentum, only slowing down because of air resistance, friction between the road and the tires and whatever brakes you end up applying. By using a combination of this and watchful driving you can coast to a stop sign in neutral rather than in drive. But please, only use this in a controlled manner, for it does limit handling over the car.

Plan That Stop

This brings me to my next point, which is anticipating when you need to slow down. Be alert and look around you. If you can see cars further down the road are not moving or if the light at the intersection is red and in both cases you are far away from it, why not just coast? So long as no one is behind you to bother, you don't have to be in a rush just to stop. Slowly coast until you have to stop or if traffic moves again. By planning this out you won't burn unnecessary gasoline by accelerating just to stop. Of course you may have no choice but to stop but you saved gas by being vigilant.

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Turn It Off

Of course, we are all familiar with being stopped somewhere and not moving for a while, like when I'm in traffic or at a railroad crossing. While you are sitting there the engine is idleing and burning gas. For what? You aren't moving anywhere. So turn the car off. If you know you are going to be stopped for a while or if you are at a traffic light and know the light will change soon (usually about 15+ seconds), put the car in park and then turn off the engine. Now you have saved the gas that otherwise would have burned for no purpose, and when you need to go again you just turn the car on, put into drive, and go. Yes, this can wear on the starter and spark plugs but only if done excessively.

Easy enough? Here is an advanced tip. Some cars let you turn the engine off and on while in neutral. If you can get a good coast going (like mentioned earlier) and are just letting momentum carry you forward, then leave the car in neutral and turn the engine off. Now you are not only coasting but you are not running the engine as you go, a double bonus. Just be ready to turn the car back on if you need to speed up again.

It is important to note that you should NOT turn the car on and off so much in the winter. The cold weather is tough on the battery and excessively using it (like when starting a car) will drain it fast. So use this tip during the warm part of the year.

No AC

Speaking of those warm months, we oftentimes reach for the AC to keep cool. But avoid this, if possible. Using the AC in your car does burn more gas. Instead, roll down your windows. This may seem like an odd compromise, because the opening where the wind comes in will increase the drag of the car, thus countering any gains that having the AC off would, right? As it turns out, the Mythbusters showed that while having the windows down does slow down the car, it is better on the fuel economy than running the AC. So if you got to keep cool, just roll down that window.

Over-Inflate the Tires

Another trick that the Mythbusters were able to demonstrate as having a net gain on your fuel economy was the over-inflation of the car tires. The reason? Friction. Your tires on the ground require friction to gain traction, but that same friction robs your car of energy as you coast. By over-inflating by about 10%, you can reduce the friction and increase the efficiency of your coast.

Other Ideas?

Do you have tips that are not mentioned here? Leave a comment below and I will investigate and report back on any potential findings!

© 2015 Leonard Kelley

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