Gas Saving Tips


In my family I’m known as lead foot louie and my husband, Stretch, is known as Mr. Rogers. There is no concern for gas mileage when I am driving. If I drove everyday in rush hour you would hear about me as one of those road rage people. Stretch, he uses cruise control and drives in the slow lane. Does it make much difference in gas usage? You bet.



If you’ve ever watched "Keeping up Appearances" you’ve seen Stretch and me driving. He actually calls me Hyacinth because I’m always telling him how to drive. On a recent trip Stretch drove one-way and I drove the other way back. We drove the same miles, same route, the only thing different was "Mr. Rogers" driving habit’s vs. mine, Louie Andretti.



Stretch drove using cruise control, and air conditioning. We don’t listen to the radio when we drive and we rarely listen to CDs. Stretch drove 31 miles there and I drove 31 miles back. The difference in our driving was 4 miles per gallon. The only difference in driving was Stretch used cruise control and I didn’t.



Result: 4 mpg savings using cruise control.



The next day I was outside reading the paper when I heard Sue start her Toyota 4Runner. After about ten minutes her truck was still idling and I popped my head over to see why and there she was, car running, sitting in the drivers seat with the music going talking to her Mother. bad, very bad. Idling is one of the worst gas guzzlers and something most of us don’t think about. We used to think that letting the engine warm up was a good thing, but starting your car and driving it gently will work just fine for the engine. If you’re going to waste gas, waste it having fun, not doing nothing.



Then I decided to check the air conditioning. Air conditioning is a little different because it can change with the aerodynamics of a car. Presumably, if you don’t have the air conditioning on, you will have your windows open, or at least partially, or the vents on. Any of those things change the aerodynamics of a car, which changes the miles per gallon. SUVs are not inherently aerodynamic, therefore they might be better with the windows shut and the air conditioning on. I received about a 3mpg savings using a Lexus RX400h hybrid just by turning the air conditioning off and leaving the windows closed.



We had the Honda Civic hybrid, so we were able to reset our miles and our miles per gallon calculator and do a couple of test. The easiest was the air conditioner on, windows up test. We got 31.7 mpg on that, and did okay with the windows up and the vent on at 38 mpg. The real coupe de grax was the no air conditioner on and windows down; 39.7 mpg. Aerodynamics are already at work in the little Civic, compared to a SUV. It’s a good thing, we couldn’t have done the windows up fan only thing.



Result: 8 mpg savings not using air conditioner, even with the windows down.



The last test we did was the jack rabbit vs. turtle start. There was a two mile per gallon difference in accelerating quickly vs. taking the slow and easy approach.



Result: 2 mpg savings being a turtle, not a jack rabbit.



The summary is, we can save gas without buying a hybrid. You can help.



1. Use cruise control when you can. It’s a 4mpg s



2. If you don’t have to use air conditioning, don’t. If you don’t use it you will save a bundle.



3. Don’t idle and don’t make jack-rabbit starts. It will take a couple extra minutes, but you’ll save another couple mpg.



4. If you want to buy the most gasoline for the buck buy it during the coolest time of the day. That is when gasoline is the most dense. Gas is sold by volume, not density.



5. Don’t top off your tank. When you hear that first click of the fuel nozzle it’s time to stop.



6. Travel at the speed limit and use cruise control whenever you can. Cruise control is the best, but not practical in stop and go traffic. Stick with the speed limit and shift to the higher gear.



7. Look ahead. If there is a hill coming up, accelerate on the downside, engaging the engine, instead of accelerating on the upswing.



8. Keep a steady speed in the city. Most signal lights are set to the speed limit stated. If you stop and idle, put your automatic transmission in neutral. This will reduce the strain on the transmission and allow cooling.



9. Get regular tune-ups and make sure to change the air filter. If your air filter is dirty it decreases your gas flow. Watch your wheel alignment as well; going in a straight line, instead of wobbling will save gas.



10. Going forward takes less gas than going in reverse. When parking in shopping lots, etc., take this into account.



11. Change your tires in summer and winter and check them for maximum tire pressure every three months, as you get your oil changed perhaps. Spin and balance your tires and ask which tires are best fuel savers for your vehicle.



12. Anything you can turn off, do so. Radios, fans, all these new great technologies put a load on your engine which decreases your gas mileage.



13. Get the junk out of your trunk. The rule of thumb is for every extra 100 pounds you lose 1 mpg. Maybe it could be the next diet craze, "lose weight and save gas".



Following are some helpful maintenance tips from GM Goodwrench and the EPA.



Fix it up. Something as simple as replacing a faulty oxygen sensor can boost gas mileage up to 40 percent! Gasoline savings, based on $3.07 per gallon, range from 13 cents to $1.20 per gallon.



Fresh air. A clogged air filter can decrease gas mileage by up to 10 percent, so see your Owners Manual for information about when to change your filter. In addition, the air filter helps protect the inside of the engine from impurities. The potential gas savings from keeping a clog-free air filter can be up to 31 cents per gallon.



Fill those tires. Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Poorly inflated tires create rolling resistance and reduce fuel economy. Properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by around 3.3 percent. And underinflation is the leading cause of tire failures/blowouts.



GM Goodwrench encourages you to bring your vehicle to your local GM Goodwrench dealership for an inspection during October Car Care Month. The inspections help identify service items that can help vehicles run better, last longer, retain value and provide optimal safety and security. GM Goodwrench recommends the following inspections:



Batteries : Weak batteries can lead to breakdowns “ possibly at the worst time and place.



Brakes : An expert inspection can determine whether brakes are functioning properly with full braking capability.



Windshield wipers : Old or worn windshield wipers can lead to poor visibility.



Headlamps : Properly aimed headlamps are a must for optimal visibility.



Oil : Change the oil and filter at recommended intervals to minimize engine wear and reduce the possibility of internal damage. Many 2004 and newer GM vehicles follow the Simplified Maintenance schedule which can save both oil and money. Check your vehicles Owners Manual for recommended intervals.



Fluid levels : Improper fluid levels “ including coolant, oil, power steering, transmission, brake fluid and even washer solvent “ can negatively affect vehicle performance, durability and safety.



Belts and hoses : A broken belt or ruptured hose can cause costly engine damage and travel delays.



The one thing I have noticed when driving a hybrid versus internal combustion engine (ICE) is that the hybrid calculates current and average miles per gallon. Very few ICEs calculate gas mileage. If everyone drove a vehicle that had the ability to show them the effect their driving had on their mpg it would probably have an effect on their driving habit’s.



Even if you are a lead foot.

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.

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