The recent Memorial Day weekend is a perfect time to reflect and to pay homage to the memories of all the men and women who have lost their lives in service to our country. This weekend is also the unofficial beginning of summer, which means that it is the time when we will all have to start paying more at the pump for gasoline, thanks to the basic laws of supply and demand. The oil companies claim that the reason why gas costs more in the summer is because they have to start selling a more expensive mix that is appropriate for use in the hotter weather. But the real reason is that people inevitably do more driving when it is warm outside and the kids are out of school, and the petroleum industry raises prices because that is what the economic textbooks say you are supposed to do when there are more consumer dollars chasing after the same amount of product.
Back in the good old days when gasoline cost a pittance, these temporary price increases were not much to worry about. But now that gas prices have reached the point where it can cost you $70 or $80 to fill up during the summer driving season in particular, cutting down on automobile fuel costs is obviously something that everyone would like to find a way to do, especially when they know they are going be doing a lot of extra driving.
Of course the best way to reduce gas costs is to buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle. But even if you cannot afford to take such a dramatic step, there are still a number of things you can do to save money on gasoline this summer. In the spirit of full disclosure, it has to be admitted that none of the fourteen tips mentioned here is likely to be a big time money saver all by itself. But if you follow all of the advice offered here, in its entirety, rest assured that each time you check out your credit card statements or look at your bank account this summer, you are going to notice the difference.
Here, then, are are terrific tips that, if followed diligently, will allow you to save a lot of money on gasoline over these next few months.
Tip 1: Inflate Your Tires
According to the good folks at the AAA, only 17 percent of the automobiles currently running on America’s roads have all four of their tires adequately inflated. This problem is ubiquitous because most car owners forget to check inflation levels regularly, and as a result, most vehicle owners have absolutely no idea they are riding around on under-inflated tires.
It is estimated that you will lose .3 percent on your gas mileage for every pound in PSI that you are below the maximum inflation level on all four tires. This might not sound like a lot, but if you are riding around on tires that are ten or more PSI below the top level you could be reducing your MPG by as much as one to two miles per gallon.
Tip 2: Use the Right Oil
Using the grade of motor oil recommended by the automobile manufacturer can improve gas mileage by 1 to 2 percent. It is a good idea to look for phrases like “energy conserving” on the API Service Symbol that will be found on the outside of the oil container, as this means that substances have been added to the mix that can reduce engine wear and tear.
Tip 3: Control Your Weight
Not your weight specifically, but the weight that has been loaded into the car. For every 100 pounds that are added to a vehicles natural weight, the MPG will be reduced by about 2 percent. For every 250 extra pounds that are loaded into an automobile, you can subtract about one mile per gallon off the normal number.
So the moral of the story is, travel light whenever possible; or, maybe the moral is that everyone in your family should go on a diet, which would save you money on food as well as on gas.
Tip 4: Monitor Prices with the Help of Technology
For the technologically savvy, apps can be your friend. The GasBuddy app, for instance, can give you the locations and prices of filling stations anywhere in the country, so no matter where you are traveling, you will be able to use your Android, Blackberry, or iPhone to comparison shop for the cheapest gas. Other good apps include Smart Fuel, Exxon Mobile Fuel Finder, and AAA TripTik Mobile.
All of the above are available for free download.
Tip 5: Plan Your Errands Carefully
Errands can and should be combined to reduce summertime mileage. The key here is that when you do head out on an errand run, you should go to your farthest intended destination first and then work your way back. The reason for this is that engines burn gasoline much more efficiently when they are properly warmed, so a longer trip at the beginning will help your engine get its temperature up where you would like it to be.
Tip 6: Avoid Heavy Traffic Whenever You Can
Rush hours should be avoided at all costs, and just in general the path less traveled should be preferred whenever that choice is realistically available. High traffic density can slow down traffic flow significantly, prolonging trips and wasting a lot of gasoline in the process.
Google Map is now available for smart phones, and the handy grids this program produces will let you know what streets or highways are tied up or running slowly at the very moment you are out on the road, regardless of your location.
Tip 7: Slow Down (at Least a Little)
Sixty miles per hour is the magic number. Once your speed goes beyond this level, MPG will start dropping. For every five miles per hour you go over sixty, you will end up spending an additional twenty-five cents per gallon, which just goes to show you that slow and steady does indeed win the race.
Tip 8: Balance Your Windows and Air Conditioning Properly
It is true that air conditioners use fuel, but it is also true that open windows create an aerodynamic drag that increases exponentially the faster an automobile is traveling. Testing has shown that it is more efficient to have the windows down and the AC off if you are going 55 mph or less, but when you are traveling at 60 miles per hour or more, you will actually save gas if you turn the windows up and turn on the AC. Of course, if you can close the windows and have the AC off at the same time regardless of speed, that is even better, but this may not be a reasonable alternative during the dog days of July and August.
Tip 9: Develop Your Coasting Skills
When you constantly use your brakes to slow down and stop, you are essentially fighting against your engine and using up precious fuel in the process. Most of us are not used to coasting up to stop signs or traffic lights, but it is definitely wise to practice this skill until you get good at it. Learning to use your brakes as little as possible will help save gas, and it is not as hard to master the art of coasting as you might expect.
Tip 10: Keep Your Foot Off the Accelerator on Hills
Testing has proven it – if you just let your car slow down as you go up hills, instead of applying extra pressure to your accelerator in order to maintain your speed, you will come out ahead of the deal when you coast down the hill on the other side. Of course, you may not be able to do this when traffic is heavy (not without being beeped at by a whole chorus of backed-up vehicles behind you), but any time you can get away with it, you should let your car take its time when it is climbing up a hill.
Tip 11: Control Your Acceleration Properly
Everyone knows that if you stomp on the gas to try to get from zero to sixty in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, you will be wasting gas and forcing your engine to stress and strain in a very inefficient manner. However, that does not mean that you should accelerate up to speed as slowly as possible. On the contrary, lower gears work less efficiently than higher gears, so you will want to get out of them relatively quickly.
Something like fifteen seconds to go from zero to fifty might be about right; however, the key is to always accelerate at a noticeable but steady pace, which is something that you will just need to practice so you can get a feel for how to do it right.
Tip 12: Right Turns Only!
Eliminating left turns from your driving repertoire in areas where there are stop lights or relatively heavy traffic flow really does make a difference. Less idle time waiting to turn gives you more actual movement per gallon of fuel burned, which is why FedEx and UPS both instruct their drivers to skip left turns as a matter of policy. Even if you have to go a few hundred feet out of your way to change left turns into right turns, in the end it will be more than worth it.
Tip 13: Keep the Ethanol Out of Your Tank
Ethanol has less energy potential than gasoline, so its presence in gas will inevitably reduce fuel mileage. Of course, ethanol is supposed to be good for the environment, but there is evidence to suggest that this is not true, and that the whole ethanol program is really little more than a hidden subsidy for politically connected agribusiness interests (as ethanol is made from corn). Making things worse, ethanol can also corrode car engines, and if you have a vehicle that was manufactured before 2001, it is absolutely essential that you not use the new E15 ethanol fuel, which will eat your engine alive in no time at all.
Tip 14: Buses, Trains, and Bicycles
This is an obvious one of course; it is just a matter of how dependent you are on the private automobile to get around, and how willing you are to be a little more flexible or creative in your travel choices.
Since summer is the perfect time for vacations, one way to cut down on automobile usage is to put together trip packages that will get you to where you want to go without requiring you to drive there; and once you get there, bicycle tours of scenic spots can provide hours of fun for everyone. Buses may be mostly a utilitarian option, but riding a train can be an experience in and of itself, and bicycling is great exercise and a wonderful way to see beautiful country up close and personal.
©2012 Off the Grid News