Saving Gas – 11 tips that might help – Part 3 of 3


Your driving habits really affect your gas mileage. While I am not condoning the extreme hypermiling techniques, we can all learn a bit in doing a better job. Read this extremist article but be careful going overboard. This is the third and final entry of this Saving Gas series.

Earlier in this Saving Gas series I wrote that price of crude compared to the price of gold has been pretty steady state. It still hurts when we get a market correction and it affects your budget. This article has 11 tips that might just help a little bit!

  1. Don’t accelerate quickly. – Yes, I know your mother told you this when you were learning to drive. If you accelerate gradually, it can really help your miles per gallon. Your car won’t be working as hard. You’ll be a safer driver to boot.
  2. Let your car brake itself. – Anticipate stops ahead of you and just let off the accelerator, letting the car slow itself down. If you have a standard transmission, take it out of gear. If you have an automatic you may be able to put it into neutral but be careful as this may cause long-term damage to your transmission. In most cases, your engine will use almost no gas with an automatic that does not have the foot on the accelerator.
  3. Drive at the speed limit on highways and freeways. – At $4.00 a gallon, you can save a lot of money by driving 5 miles per hour slower. You will find that you don’t really get where you’re going any later than you did before. Driving 70 mph for 30 miles will only get you there 2 minutes earlier instead of driving 65. Plan a little bit ahead and you will be fine.
  4. Use cruise control. – This really helps your miles per gallon a lot on long stretches of road. I tested this out on that drive and was surprised at the difference cruise control made. I tried driving the exact same speed with and without cruise control and using cruise control consistently gave me a 4-5 miles per gallon advantage. If I worked the accelerator myself, even being very consistent and alert to how I was driving, I would get about 24-25 miles per gallon on this highway stretch. (This is using the real-time miles per gallon display, mind you.) With cruise control on, it would increase to 29, and then vary between 27 and 30 depending on the road conditions.
  5. Don’t use the air conditioner. – This can be a hard one in the summer. Opening your windows causes drag also so if you have to choose, turn on the AC. However, I know people that run their AC in the winter and this just wastes gas. As a good rule of thumb, if you are tooling about below 40 mph, the air drag is negligible compared to the AC load so open up your windows. If you are over 40 mph, close the windows and turn on the AC.
      NEVER turn the AC on to cool off a car that has sat in the sun for hours – open all of the doors for 3-5 minutes, let the hot air out, and let the upholstery give up some of its heat. Is 5 minutes really going to make you late? If so, leave earlier!
  6. Accelerate before hills. – Accelerate before you get to a hill, and then let off the accelerator once you hit the hill. Let your momentum carry you up the foot of the hill. Accelerating before the hill is easier on your car than accelerating on the hill. If it’s a big enough hill, you’ll still need to accelerate while you’re on it, but then you won’t have to use the accelerator on the entire hill.
  7. Clean out your car. – A lighter car will get more miles per gallon. You probably can take the 10 bags of mulch out of your trunk.
  8. Check your tire pressure. – Low tire pressure makes your car work harder. Don’t over-inflate your tires.
  9. Get a hybrid car. – I said that I wasn’t going to recommend a hybrid but if you are in the market for a new car, consider one. However, hybrids aren’t for everyone. If you have long stretches of highway or freeway driving, a hybrid won’t give you much of an advantage. They are also less powerful when it comes to hills.
  10. Do more in one trip. – Once your engine is warmed up, keep it going. Don’t be foolish and let it idle while you drop you dry cleaning off (engines that run when the cars aren’t moving are getting infinitely bad gas mileage). If hybrids have taught us anything it is that it takes almost no extra gasoline to start up a hot engine. So arrange your schedule so that you do all of your errands in a row and not make individual trips.
  11. Drive efficient routes. – I saved this for last because it should be the most obvious but don’t drive the long way to get somewhere. In addition, arrange your errands so that you go in a big loop rather than in and out from home.

While this series was designed to save you some money, it is also designed to save the environment a bit. Wether you think that global warming is caused by man or not, we have a limited amount of natural resources to burn – let’s use them efficiently.

To sum up the most of the comments from this series.

  1. It isn’t all that bad, so stop complaining. Compared to the price of gold (a good indicator of all currencies), gas is not that much more expensive than it used to be when you were a kid.
  2. Leave a little earlier.
  3. Don’t rush so much.
  4. Plan a little better.
  5. Smile a little more (yes, I know I didn’t discuss this and I am not sure it will save you any money on your fuel bill but at least you will feel better).
  6. Saving gas is a process not a one-time event – pay attention to the details every day.

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