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.

Fuel additives: do they work and, if so, what’s the best fuel additive?

You may be wondering if fuel additives are really effective and if they really work as well as advertisements claim. The reality is that there are benefits to using them, but it’s important to be realistic in your expectations.

The EPA requires that all fuel sold in the U.S. contain a certain amount of deposit-control additives to prevent a dangerous buildup in your car’s systems. However, a type of fuel could meet the bare minimums mandated by law — but it still may not provide an adequate level of prevention. This is where the effectiveness of fuel additives comes into play.

You want to choose a fuel additive that can keep your engine clean if you purchase the cheapest gas possible.

With today’s gas prices, most of us are looking for the cheapest gas, rather than completely focusing on the health of our vehicle — and that focus on prices is understandable.

To protect your vehicle, look for fuel additives that contain polybutene amine (PBA), which can clean out deposits from carburetors, fuel injectors and intake valves, as well as potentially a few other areas. They also may be able to restore your engine’s overall performance and help lower your carbon footprint.

Don’t overdo. Using too much of a particular fuel additive can actually cause damage, such as ruining sensors and other car features.

Then, you will end up spending more in the long run than you would have dealing with typical deposit damage.

The bottom line: choose a fuel additive that is appropriate for your vehicle and use it according to directions. This can help save you time, money and hassles in the long run. To save more money, find the cheapest gas in your area.