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Fun with gasoline… Wait, that sounds bad. How to save gasoline.

Gas prices are driving me up the wall. I’m glad I opted for a Dodge Neon and not a Dodge Avenger last year when I bought a car, since the Neon gets better gas mileage, but right now the VW Jetta is tempting me and is 45 MPG sounds really sweet (my Neon gets 25-30 driving locally and about 35 on trips). My lease is up in two years, so I’ll get it right then. Until then, I’ve gotta do what I can. Yes, small cars are more dangerous than big cars, but if most people drove smaller cars and didn’t drive like they have a death wish, that wouldn’t be such a big deal now, would it?

So I went hunting for gas-saving tips. I found a bunch. Nineteen, I think.

First things first: Bookmark Punch in a zip code, and it’ll give you the lowest fuel prices within a radius you define. More importantly, it lets you watch trends. More on that in a second. Also bookmark They’ve got some gas saving tips (not as many as I’m about to give you) along with every other thing imaginable.

1. Buy the same brand and type of gas whenever possible. Your car’s computer adjusts to the fuel you use. Using a different brand of gas every tankful doesn’t give the computer a chance to adjust, so buying at a different station to save a penny a gallon can end up costing you money.

2. Inflate your tires properly, and check them once a month. You can assume you’re going to lose 1 PSI per month. There’s a sticker on your door that gives the manufacturer’s recommendations. Go with the higher number if one’s given. A tire’s maximum PSI is listed on the rim of the tire itself. Don’t inflate to the maximum, because you gain 1 PSI for every 10 degrees’ temperature increase, but if there’s a discrepancy between the tire maker and the car maker, meeting them halfway will improve gas mileage. And make sure your wheels are properly aligned.

3. If your car’s going to idle for a minute or longer, such as at a drive-thru, shut off the engine. It takes less fuel to start the engine up again than it does to idle for just 10 seconds. Better yet, park and go inside.

4. Use the thinnest-viscosity oil your car manufacturer recommends, usually 5W-30. A low-viscosity synthetic can improve your gas mileage by 3 percent.

5. Replace your air and gas filters periodically–usually once a year.

6. Drive slower. Every one mile per hour over 55 MPH decreases your gas mileage by 1-2 percent.

7. Avoid sudden acceleration and braking, and use your cruise control whenever possible. Aggressive driving–tailgating, weaving, speeding–decreases drive times by about four percent on average, but can increase fuel consumption by 39 percent.

8. Clean out your car. Excessive weight harms gas mileage. Each 100 pounds in your car decreases gas mileage by about one-half mile per gallon.

9. Replace your spark plugs on time, and replace them with high-performance spark plugs, such as Bosch Platinums, and gap them properly. Platinum plugs don’t wear out as quickly, and while the jury is out whether platinum plugs inherently give better gas mileage, a set of old platinums will have an edge over a set of old cheap plugs. Two bad plugs can decrease your gas mileage by 20 percent.

10. Use your air conditioner on the highway, since open windows increase drag. Turn off the air conditioner and roll down your windows in stop-and-go traffic. And in the winter, using the defroster decreases your gas mileage, although using the heater won’t.

11. It only takes 10 seconds in warm weather and 30 seconds in cold weather for most engines to warm up. Warming up longer than that burns fuel without giving much other benefit.

12. Use overdrive if your car has it.

13. Avoid gimmicks that claim to increase gas mileage. Simple maintenance makes a bigger difference than anything else you can do.

14. This should go without saying, but don’t drive out of your way looking for the lowest gas price. Remember the size of your tank–that’s how much a fill-up at a penny a gallon less will save you. Driving across town in stop-and-go traffic to save a penny a gallon won’t help you. Check gas prices when you’re running an errand anyway, and if there’s a good price on your brand near where you’re going anyway, fill up then.

15. Dirt and gravel roads can decrease gas mileage by 30 percent.

16. Drive at steady speeds in the city. Stoplights are usually timed very close to the speed limit, so you can catch most of the green lights by driving legally.

17. Use snow tires in the winter; the increased traction improves gas mileage. But in the off months, the deeper tread hurts gas mileage.

18. When you buy tires, radials can improve gas mileage by about 3 percent.

19. Don’t use 4-wheel-drive unless necessary.

And that’s all I’ve got.

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8 thoughts on “Fun with gasoline… Wait, that sounds bad. How to save gasoline.”

  1. Dave, there’s another one – fits right in with 6, 7 & 16. While you’re driving slow, smooth and steady, also "drive ahead". That is, consciously look further ahead than most people do while driving. It helps in that "smooth" bit. Safer too. You see things developing up ahead, and you can often avoid getting caught behind a turning or parked vehicle, a bus, a slower vehicle, or a cyclist. Also you can often just coast up to a red light, rather than having to brake; and sometimes even be still rolling as it turns green. Ticks off the "hot-rod" types no end when you pass them as the lights turn green for the third time in a row.

  2. Living in Texas has taught me a few things about pick-up trucks and fuel economy.

    Here’s a tip for the cowboy in all of us: use a net instead of your regular tail-gate. This decreases drag by about 5%. Also, something that I’ve done to my Ford Ranger is to add a water jacket to the intake manifold. Keeping it cool increase both fuel economy AND performance.

  3. If I didn’t have to put the kid in a car seat, I’d be very tempted to trade in my V6 Accord for a (two-seater) Honda Insight electric-gas hybrid.

    At 61 mpg in the city, and 68 mpg on the highway, you get about 700 miles on a tank of gas (and the tank only holds 10.6 gallons). I think it costs less than most Accords, and it just about halves your fuel cost. Which makes your wallet feel like it’s the late 80’s instead of the early 00’s. Great commuter car.

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