Fuel for Life

I’ve always loved cars. And since my Dad was constantly involved in automotive projects of one form or another, my exposure to DIY came early on. From my initial oil changes, I eventually graduated to full-on rebuilds and restorations. Now, as Dad’s long moved on, I generally tend to be the guy in the neighborhood that friends and neighbors look to for advice on things like safe driving and maintenance. No surprise, in the last year particularly, they’ve been asking me how to save money on gas. While fuel prices as of now (Summer, 2012) seem to have peaked or are actually going down a bit, they’re still pretty high and there’s reason to believe that they will continue to rise over the long run. Fortunately, here are a few tips to save gas that will also hopefully make you a safer driver.

First and foremost, maintain your manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure. It saves wear and tear on your tires and will help you meet the fuel mileage targets of your car. Auto manufacturers have highly trained engineers who match specific tires to specific cars for a balance of ride, handling and fuel economy, so it’s best to adhere to their specs. Plus, it’s one of the easiest things to do to check and refill air. My wife used to always leave these sorts of things to me, but once I showed her how easy it was to check her tire pressure, she now insists on doing it every couple of weeks. (Of course, I still have to take out the trash.)

Underinflated tires may give you a slightly smoother ride, but they’re more likely to blow out and they will negatively affect your fuel consumption.

Another way to achieve good gas mileage is to drive with anticipation, which is good practice for safe driving anyway. By that I mean, think a few moves ahead, like a chess player rather than focusing only on the car ahead of you. This will help you avoid fender-benders or worse yet, a major accident. Look ahead when you drive, so you won’t be doing things like suddenly speeding up right before traffic slows on the highway. The more time you can spend at a steady speed (cruise control), the less your engine will have to work and the more fuel you can save.

Try to keep your car as aerodynamic as possible. It’s summer, so you’re traveling with your family, but if you can fit things in the car instead of in a giant roof rack, your car will cut through the air more easily and save fuel because the engine won’t have to work so hard. And for that matter, there’s no need to pack your entire house into your car. Pack smart. Less weight equals better mileage.

For that matter, clean out your trunk. It’s good to have some safety items like extra water and a blanket, but remember—extra weight is the enemy of fuel economy.

Try to maintain a steady speed also. Trust me. Since I’ve been married I tend to drive more conservatively (particularly when my wife is in the car) but I used to be Larry the Leadfoot. And, I was spending a LOT more money on gas. Gas mileage limits are set not only for safety, but because driving fast uses a lot more fuel than driving at a more moderate pace, and you won’t really get there that much faster anyway.

If you put even these simple tips to use, you’ll be amazed at how you can cut down on trips to the gas station and best of all, save money.

Learn more about ways to boost your fuel economy.

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