Twelve ways to conserve fuel, and some cash
Although manufacturers have made tremendous fuel economy gains, and have improved overall performance, why waste money and natural resources when it's so simple to improve fuel economy? The efficiency of modern cars means that a single change won't bring about dramatic results, but a combination of small adjustments will noticeably improve fuel economy. Plus, it may help you get ready for the new international regulations about greenhouse gas emissions that should take effect in the next few years. Ultimately, we will pay more for gas, and all our current indifference to fuel economy may come to a screeching halt.... Check out the following twelve tips, then try a few that can be easily adapted to your driving and maintenance habits. · Be a light foot: Smooth driving is an easy way to improve fuel economy. Hard starts and stops are wasteful. Look ahead and plan ahead: don't race up to a red light only to stop and wait for it to change. · Keep a log: Track fuel economy changes so you have a means of comparison. Check your gas mileage every time you fill up. Note new techniques to see if they work. A consistent, year-round log is best because winter weather can lower fuel economy. A fuel economy log is a great way to keep track of maintenance schedules. If you notice that mileage figures are falling, it's probably time for a tune-up.
· Good inflation: Drivers waste millions of gallons of fuel each year due to under-inflated tires. Maintaining optimum tire inflation is one of the best things you can do to increase fuel economy. Inflate your tires to the upper limit of the manufacturer's recommendations. Check tire pressure when the tires are cold for accurate, consistent readings. Invest in a quality tire gauge like a dial model with a bleeder valve.· Weight watchers: It obviously takes more energy (gas) to move a heavier object. Inspect your trunk and remove any unnecessary junk. Don't carry chains in the summer. When it snows, keep the snow off the roof and trunk of your car. Snow can be very heavy. Slush around the wheel wells is also very heavy. · Fill'r up, not over: When you buy gas, stop when the pump shuts off automatically (unless you know that it did so prematurely). · Don't be idle: Modern, fuel-injected engines do not need to be warmed up, and unnecessary idling wastes fuel. Just take it easy for the first couple miles. · Stay in tune: Keep your car in top mechanical shape. It will run better, last longer, and return better fuel economy. Follow the manufacturer's maintenance schedule. You can check the air filter by holding it up to a bright light. If it looks clogged or obviously dirty, replace it. Air filters are very inexpensive at national chain stores such as K-Mart, Wal-Mart, and Target. Keep tabs on the fuel filter, also.
· Buy from busy gas stations: Whenever possible, buy your gas at a high volume station. Since their tanks are refilled often, you're less likely to get gas with water, rust or other impurities. Bad gas hurts mileage figures. Busy stations are more likely to have frequent pump accuracy inspections so you get what you paid for.· Plan local trips and errands: Plan errands for maximum efficiency. This technique will also save you a lot of time. · Drive straight: Be sure that your front suspension is properly aligned. Poor alignment increases tire friction, causes premature tire wear, and requires extra gas to move the vehicle. · Cruise control: On long trips where traffic permits, use your cruise control. A constant speed is more efficient than what you can maintain manually. · Low grades: Don't waste money on premium gas if your car doesn't require it. Consult your owner's manual for the factory octane recommendations. Use the lowest octane gas that doesn't cause excessive engine knocking.
Photos courtesy of Toyota Motor Co., Ford Motor Co. and Lexus