(Our Car Expert): If you own a car and are among the 99 percent of Americans who don’t drive an electric vehicle, you’re probably spending a considerable amount of time and money at the fuel pump.
And unless you plan to buy an electric car, this continuous consumption of fuel will not stop, even Toyota Prius owners need to fill up on gas from time to time.
However, there are some easy things to do, as well as habits to change, that will at least make your trips to the gas station less frequent. So not only will you use less of the planet’s finite gas reserves, you’ll also spend less cash.
Make sure your car tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Do not use the maximum pressure number on the sidewall of the tire, look for the decal or plaque on the driver’s side door jamb; these will show you the correct inflation numbers for your vehicle.
According to the US Department of Energy, under-inflated tires can reduce gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 PSI a tire is below its optimum pressure. In addition to fuel savings, properly inflated tires are safer and will increase tread life.
If you go hiking with a heavy backpack, you will run out of energy much sooner than if you carry a light backpack. The same reasoning applies to your car.
Whether you’re carrying around a 50-pound bag of dog food, the stack of books you always forget to return to the library, or your impeccable collection of all the print editions of the Weekly World News (BatBoy Lives!), your car has to work hard. harder and therefore consumes fuel more quickly.
According to the DOE, every 100 pounds can reduce fuel economy by 1 percent. So clean out the trunk, remove anything you don’t need in there (it’s better to keep the spare tire and jack, though), and you just might find that your car actually has better performance and better fuel economy.
Are you one of those people who sees every red light as a sign that a race is about to start? The traffic light turns green and you put your foot down to get the car out of the side of the line?
While pretending you’re a race car driver can be fun, as those revs rise, your gas gauge quickly goes the other way. Instead, hit the throttle lightly and smoothly and you’ll quickly see positive results in fuel economy.
There is also much less wear and tear on your car and tires when you calmly hit the gas.
A typical speedometer will indicate that the vehicle can go 120 mph, or more, and most modern cars are fully capable of going well beyond most posted speed limits.
Not only will that practice get you an expensive speeding ticket or worse (a big repair bill, an extended hospital stay, or a lavish lawsuit), but it will also make your car guzzle gas like it’s going out of style. .
As your speed increases above 50 mph, your fuel economy drops rapidly. This is especially true with many of today’s smaller, more fuel-efficient engines: with less power, they have to work much harder as speed increases.
Stick to the posted speed and you’ll go much further before having to stop for fuel.
Most modern cars undergo considerable wind tunnel testing to make them as aerodynamic as possible, which improves efficiency and performance. When you put a large rack or cargo box on the roof, all the wind tunnel work goes away.
The DOE estimates that a roof-mounted cargo box can decrease fuel economy by up to 25 percent at highway speeds. Skis, boats, bikes, or other equipment carried on top have similar results.
Of course, there are times when you legitimately need to carry these items, but remove them when you don’t. Whenever possible, use a rear-mounted rack or pack your gear inside.
Everyone wants to be comfortable in their car, and when it gets too hot, the answer is to roll down the windows (in most cars, of course, “roll down” means push the button) or turn on the air conditioning.
At a slower speed when driving around town, lowering the windows makes more sense. Air conditioning puts a load on the engine and will definitely reduce fuel economy.
However, at highway speeds, lowered windows add considerable drag to your car, which in turn reduces fuel consumption. So if you’re going to be on the freeway, roll up the windows and turn on the air conditioning; there will still be a drop in fuel economy, but this is the lesser of the two options.
Or you can go for option three (AC off, windows up), but we really don’t recommend it during the dog days of summer.
If you have multiple places to go, make a plan to cover them all in one outing. Shorter trips with multiple cold starts will consume much more fuel than if the engine only had one cold start and stayed warm for the rest of the trip.
It is also beneficial to plan your route to reach all your destinations in the shortest possible time. Be sure to pick the right time to go, if you can: avoiding rush hour will reduce your stops and starts, improving both your fuel economy and your morale.
Sitting in your car with the engine running is pretty inefficient, that much goes without saying. When it’s not moving, it gets zero miles per gallon.
According to the DOE, you can use a quart to a half gallon of gas per hour while idling, possibly more depending on the size of the engine and whether your air conditioner is working. This is why many newer cars automatically shut off when you brake and automatically restart when you release the brake.
If you’re going to be waiting in your car for a while, turn it off. It doesn’t take much fuel to restart, and it will save gas and money, as well as being good for the environment.
Maintaining a steady speed on the highway can go a long way toward improving fuel economy, and using cruise control is the easiest way to do it.
This method only works when the road is relatively flat: the cruise control will try to keep the vehicle speed constant even when going up hills or mountain roads, making the engine work harder and therefore burn more fuel.
Most people don’t specify an oil type when changing oil, but this can also affect fuel economy. Check your owner’s manual to see what grade of motor oil your vehicle manufacturer recommends for your car; using the correct oil can improve fuel economy by up to 2 percent.
Clearly, this isn’t an option for everyone, but today’s cars are among the most fuel efficient ever produced, so if you’re looking for something new on the market, here’s your chance to make a difference.
If you can increase your fuel economy from 15 mpg to 30 mpg, based on $3 a gallon and 15,000 miles of driving per year, that’s a savings of $1,500 each year, enough money for a few lattes. Added bonus: Chances are the new car will run a lot cleaner than your current ride.
Even if you’ve already made the jump to a highly efficient vehicle, there are still ways to improve your mileage. Avoiding hard braking will make better use of the regenerative braking system, putting more energy back into the batteries, for free.
Any vehicle that can plug in should be plugged in whenever you get the chance, especially in the case of plug-in hybrids, since the more charge you have, the fewer times the internal combustion engine needs to run.
Most of these vehicles have gauges to tell drivers how to drive more efficiently. Listen to your car – you know what you’re doing.
Okay, okay, so we’re being Captain Obvious. And Americans love their cars, so this may be the hardest fuel-saving tip to follow: Leave your car at home.
Take a bus, ride a bike, carpool to work (with this option you can still drive, sometimes) or if the distance is short enough (or you’re in pretty good shape) you can just walk.
It may be a no-brainer, but the less you use your car, the less fuel it will use.
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