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Practical driving tips to save you money at the pumps
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What are the most effective ways to save gas while driving? asked by brittanytodd
On the Road Again
As an independent contractor for over 10 years, it seemed I was always on the road. On average I spent four or five hours a day driving; it was nothing for me to spend a grand a week just on gas or diesel fuel depending on which truck I was driving. Knowing that all the gas I spent was coming out of potential profits, I was constantly aware of my driving habits, and always on the look out for ways to increase my miles per gallon. Over the years I learned many tricks that ultimately helped improve my vehicle’s efficiency on the road, and put a few more dollars in my pocket. These are my practical driving tips that if followed will save you money at the pumps.
Probably the most important was planning; mapping out where I was going and the best way to get there. The best way wasn’t always the shortest. There were many destinations that I learned had routes that were a bit longer than other possibilities, but involved fewer stops. If the rout was a mile and a half longer, but I spent far less time stopping and going, the longer route was always the cheaper of the two. In most cases the longer way was not only the most efficient, but also a few minutes quicker, due to not waiting at stop lights and signs. Keep in mind that an average vehicle uses the same amount of gas taking off as it would during an eighth to a quarter of a mile driving at a constant rate of speed. So, fewer stops usually equal fewer dollars spent.
There are some other methods I used regularly to improve my chances of making a profit. For one, taking off a bit slower each time you stop rather than gunning the gas to break out ahead of the crowd; uses quite a bit less gas over the course of the day. Many times I would pass by the other drivers who seemingly left me in the dust at the previous stop light, so it really doesn’t cost you any time. The trick is to accelerate slowly but steadily until you reach the speed limit, or there about. Speaking of stop lights, if you time things right you can often times avoid stopping at many lights altogether. For example, if I’m driving along and I notice the light up ahead a ways has just turned yellow, I let off of the gas and coast; sometimes I even hit my brake. If I time it right, I can slowly approach the light and it will turn green before I get to it allowing me to avoid stopping. I use this trick all the time when I’m on my bike, not really to save gas, but more to avoid stopping. I have had people honk and yell obscenities at me for doing this, but if you do it all the time it will save you a sizeable amount of gas in the long run. Remember that most vehicles get their best mileage at around 60 to 65 miles per hour, so slowing down a bit on the interstate can save you some gas as well.
If you have cruise control it is a great convenience, but there is a right and wrong time to use it. Of course, you wouldn’t use it in town or where there are multiple stops with-in a short stretch of road, but what about the highway or interstate? Well, if the land is generally flat and the road ahead is open, great turn on that cruise control it is convenient and it will save a bit of gas, but if the land is hilly it is better to leave it off and use the pedal. If you notice, cruise controls tend to lunge when faced with a steep incline, which contradicts my second point of slow steady acceleration.
If your vehicle has an automatic transmission with overdrive, you should always drive in overdrive, unless there is a reason not to. One such reason would be that you are hauling a heavy load, or a trailer. Another might be that you are on a steep incline. In either case it is best to put your vehicle in drive rather than overdrive. There may even be times that you may drop into lower gears if you notice that the engine is struggling to pull the load. If you have a manual transmission, you should train your self to drive it properly. I always hear about manual transmissions being gas savers, but the fact is that many people don’t drive them properly and end up using more gas than they would have in an automatic. I hear people drive by the house all the time, winding out their engines before shifting the gears, I assure you that if they do this regularly they are using far more gas than they could be. You should only wind the engine as far as necessary to move to the next gear with out bogging down the engine. You should also make the shifts between gears as smooth and fast as possible to get the best miles per gallon possible. Another idea is to never down shift, when you hear the engine roar as you down shift you are using more gas than necessary. Use you brakes instead, it saves gas and brakes are much easier to change than a clutch; and trust me down shifting has an extreme negative impact on your clutch, transmission, and engine.
Another observation I made during my many travels is that all gas stations are not created equal. From one gas station to the next there is sometimes a difference in the miles per gallon that I would get. I would avoid those stations that have lower quality gas regardless of the cost, unless the price is at a point that would more than make up the difference. Even then I might be leery, because low grade gas can affect an engine even after it is used up. One more idea is to keep your tank at least above a quarter tank, because the gas is what keeps your fuel pump cool and working properly.
Last but not least, proper maintenance of your vehicle is of the upmost importance if you are to get the best miles per gallon possible. Performing tune-ups regularly; checking all the fluids, checking grease fittings, changing filters, and maintaining proper tire pressure are all important factors of getting the most miles for your money. Not only will all of these tips save you money at the pump; they will also add years to the life of your vehicle. I hope these tips will help you to get the most out of your vehicle, and help you save a buck or two at the gas pumps. Drive safe and have a great day.