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Driving Economically: How I Do It

Updated on June 18, 2011

With the price of gasoline fluctuating, taking two steps up and one step down, I have found myself making some tough decisions.

About a year and half ago, my wife and I bought a full sized pick-up truck. It was something that we needed here in the Appalachians, especially when it came to hauling hay and firewood around the property. But I also needed it for general transportation.

Back in the first part of 2010, gas prices were tolerable. But driving nearly 100 miles a day, almost every day was costing us close to $600 a month in fuel. I had to try to economize, but with driving a V-8, it was not easy. So we decided to park the truck and get something a little more economical.

I went to the local dealer and drove off the lot 2 hours later with a brand new Malibu. It gets more than twice the mileage of my truck and it is fun to drive. But I found that my tricks for improving the mileage worked better on this low profile 4 cylinder than it did on my big truck. I will try to share with you my method for adding at least 3-5 mpg to your tank.

First, it helps to understand how an internal combustion engine works. If you already know this stuff, forgive me. I am sure there are some readers out there that don’t.

When the engine is running, it consumes fuel with every stroke. If you have a tachometer on your car, you can tell how fast your engine is running. Ideally, most engines run at about 1,500 to 1,750 RPM’s at 60 MPH, and will idle at 500-750 RPM’s. For every revolution of the engine, fuel intake valves are opening and closing. Each time they open (stroke), fuel is squirted in the cylinder to be burned. At higher revolutions, more fuel is being consumed, thus consuming less fuel at lower revolutions.

Back in the late 60’s, President Nixon set a national speed limit of 55mph to lower fuel consumption. It worked for a while, but it was short lived. Driving slower does save fuel, but not as much as trying the economical shortcuts that I try to use each day.

Turn off the A/C. You can drive and still keep cool with the air conditioning turned off. What I do is to turn the A/C on when I first start driving, let it get good and cold, and then turn it off with the internal air recirculation vent open. This keeps on recirculating the car’s interior air through the evaporator of the air conditioner unit which remains cold for quite a while after it is turned off.

Using the air conditioner puts an extra strain on the car’s engine, causing it to burn more gas. Just doing this can net you 1-2 extra miles per gallon.

Drive in Neutral. I live in the mountains, and I have to go up and down a lot of hills to get to and from the nearest town (which is 18 miles away). Going into town I can coast in neutral nearly 65-70% of the distance. This adds another 3-4 miles per gallon to my mileage. Coasting in neutral brings your car’s RPM’s down to idle speed; it’s as if you were stopped at a red light. If you coast in neutral whenever possible, you will be amazed at how much gas you will save. Try it on a downhill run on a freeway.

Keep your windows closed. Driving with your windows open is like dragging a parachute behind you. The open void creates too much drag on the car.

The usual stuff. Keeping your tires properly inflated and the car properly aligned will help a lot. Performing regular maintenance like oil changes and tune-ups all make a big difference in the performance of your car or truck.

I hope this helps. Try it for a tankful. I would be willing to bet that your miles per gallon will increase a lot.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

©2011 by Del Banks



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    • badegg profile imageAUTHOR

      Del Banks 

      8 years ago from Southern Blue Ridge Mountains

      The Southern Appalachians aren't that high, barely 4,000 feet. If I was back home in California, then driving in those mountains would make a big difference.

      Thanks for reading.

    • WriterOnTheRoam profile image


      8 years ago from Cuenca, Ecuador

      Nice tips -- however, how do you think the altitude of where you are driving affects your mileage?


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