When gas prices are high and reliance on fossil fuels becomes increasingly problematic from a variety of perspectives, taking control of your own pocketbook and saving fuel have added allure. Average drivers have quite a bit of control when it comes to how much fuel they use. Your car's mileage per gallon rating may seem like a magic number that does not deviate, but it is actually more of an estimate that fluctuates depending on driver behavior and other circumstances.
Drive efficiently to save fuel -- without rapid stops and starts, and keeping to the speed limit. Driving at lower speeds, especially under 60 mph, saves gas significantly. For every 5 mph you drive in excess of 60 mph, your driving is costing you about an additional quarter per gallon. Less aggressive freeway driving can also improve gas mileage, up to 33 percent. A conservative approach is not only safer, but saves money.
Remove unnecessary items from your car, particularly if they are heavy, because carrying heavy loads increases gas consumption. For each extra 100 pounds of weight, your car's mileage can go down by 2 percent. Packing items on a roof rack or carrier encourages wind resistance and decreases fuel economy by about 5 percent. Try to keep smaller items inside the trunk or car.
Keep idling to a minimum. Not only does it not get you anywhere, but it consumes fuel in the process. Most newer engines do not need to be warmed up. The engine warms up more thoroughly when it is driving. A larger car that is left idling uses more fuel than a smaller car.
Maintain your car in good running condition. Simply keeping the engine tuned can save up to 4 percent of fuel. Inflating tires to their recommended pressure can improve fuel efficiency by 3 percent. Change your oil on schedule. Use the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil and select a brand that says "Energy Conserving." This type of oil contains friction-reducing additives that may improve fuel economy.
Limit air conditioner use when driving at lower speeds. An air conditioner that is on dramatically reduces fuel economy, although driving over 45 mph with the windows down creates drag on the car that increases fuel consumption.
Park in a cool area or the shade. Heat causes gasoline to evaporate. Parking in a shady spot has the added benefit of keeping the car cool, lessening the necessity for air conditioning.
Use the most effective octane level gas for your car. For most cars, regular octane is recommended. Using a higher-octane gas than the manufacturer recommends often offers no benefit. Your car's owner's manual specifies whether higher-priced gas is a necessity.
- U.S. Department of Energy; Fuel Efficiency; June 2011
- Union of Concerned Scientists; How to Maximize Your Vehicle's Fuel Economy; March 2008
- Federal Trade Commission; Saving Money at the Pump -- Tips to Stretch Your Gas Dollars; May 2011
- Fuel Economy; Owner Related Fuel Economy Improvements; December 2001
Andrea Peck has been writing since 2006. Her work has appeared in "The Rogue Voice," "Information Press" and "The Tribune." Her writing focuses on topics about gardening and the environment. Peck holds a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and a minor in biology from San Diego State University.
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