Whoo hoo! Summer is here! For many families, that means making the yearly pilgrimage to the beach or hot vacation spot. Current gas prices may be lower than in previous years, but most people still try to save as much money as possible at the pump. Here are ten ways you can improve your fuel economy and save those precious pennies.
1. Keep Those Tires Inflated – Under-inflated tires increase the amount of friction between your car and the pavement, which means your engine uses more fuel to maintain speed. Just one under-inflated tire can increase fuel consumption by one percent or more. Check your owner’s manual for correct inflation levels, and ensure all four tires are properly inflated before setting off on your trip.
2. Leave the Kitchen Sink at Home – We all like to pack everything we own when we go to the beach. We load up our with pillows, beach chairs, toys, charcoal grills, coolers, and enough food for the Chinese army until every square millimeter of trunk and cabin space is filled. All of this stuff weighs down your vehicle, causing it to use more fuel. Those “hamburger boxes” on the top of the car reduce aerodynamics and further increase fuel consumption. Put some careful thought into your packing, and only take what you absolutely need for the trip.
3. Slow Down – As your speed increases, the aerodynamic drag on your vehicle increases exponentially. This means that your engine has to work harder, and use more fuel, to maintain your speed. Adhering to a speed of 55 mph (the most common highway speed limit) will yield 21% better mileage than driving 65 mph. Driving 62 mph instead of 75 mph can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 15%. Maintaining a consistent speed also saves gas, so use that cruise control whenever possible. It may also save you from a speeding ticket!
4. Accelerate and Decelerate Gently – A car uses more fuel under hard acceleration. (This is why Maggie gets 30 mpg on the street and only 7 mpg on the race track!) Resist the urge to floor it “off the line”, just because you can. Don’t race up to red lights or stop signs and then slam on the breaks. Instead, anticipate the need to stop and lift your foot off of the accelerator early, allowing the engine to slow the vehicle before gently applying the break.
5. Avoid Idling – The average car uses 1/4 of a gallon of gas for every 15 minutes spent idling. If you anticipate being stopped for more than one minute, turn off the ignition. Restarting the car actually uses less fuel than letting it idle. Go into restaurants to purchase food instead of using the drive through when it’s time to refuel the family. If possible, plan your route to minimize traffic lights and left hand turns, which increase idling time. Making only right hand turns saves UPS nearly $600 million per year!
6. Don’t Blast the A/C – The air conditioner puts extra load on a vehicle’s engine, requiring an average of 20% more fuel to be used. Since cruisin’ without A/C is often not a pleasant option in summer months, try to keep it set at around 75 degrees. Don’t blast the air when you first get into your car, even if it is stifling hot. Instead, open the windows initially to release the stale, hot air. Once you get moving, close the windows and set the A/C at 75 degrees. Your car will cool down quickly.
7. Keep the Windows Up – Wide-open windows, especially at highway speeds, significantly increase the aerodynamic drag on your vehicle. This drag can decrease your fuel economy by as much as 10%. Run the fan on “outside air” instead, and just crack the window or sunroof for additional ventilation.