While the rising cost of oil has the price of gasoline skyrocketing faster than global warming is melting glaciers, people everywhere are preparing for cross-country road trips to Grand Canyon National Park and summer camps in Maine. We can't really argue with that innate desire to get closer to nature and out on the open road, and whether you're a die-hard cyclist or a still driving an SUV, chances are you plan to get in a car to go somewhere this summer. So whether you're packing up the Prius for some close-to-home camping, towing the boat to far-away shores, or merely fighting the crosstown traffic, these money- and gas-saving tips are designed to help you squeeze every last bit of power out of that precious petrol--and cause fewer CO2 emissions, too. It's a comprehensive list--several tasks should be done before even starting your car; others require minor adjustments to your driving style. All of them aim to help you drive a little greener.
Gas-Saving Tips: Questions to Ask Before You Turn on the Engine
1. Is your engine tuned up?
Fixing a car that is out of tune (or has failed an emissions test) will boost gas mileage, so be sure to give your car regular tune-ups. You'll also want to watch out for worn spark plugs. A misfiring spark plug can dramatically reduce a car's fuel efficiency.
2. Is your body in good shape?
Inspect suspension and chassis parts for occasional misalignment. Bent wheels, axles, bad shocks, broken springs, et cetera create engine drag and are unsafe at high traveling speeds.
3. Is your air filter clean?
When the engine air filter clogs with dirt, dust and bugs, it causes your engine to work harder and your car becomes less fuel-efficient. Replacing a clogged air filter could improve your gas mileage by as much as 10 percent. It's a good idea to have your engine air filter checked at each oil change.
4. What grade is your oil?
You can improve your car's gas mileage by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil. Opt for motor oil with the words "energy conserving" on the API performance label; this oil contains friction-reducing additives.
5. Got shade?
Buy a good windshield shade. A windshield shade blocks sunlight and helps to keep heat out of the inside of your car. This will help reduce air conditioning use in the summer.
Ways to Save Money on Gas at the Pump
6. Don't overfill 'er up.
Avoid filling your gas tank to the top. Overfilling results in sloshing over and out of tank. Never fill gas tank past the first "click" of fuel nozzle if the nozzle is automatic.
7. Use the lowest octane you can.
Buy the lowest grade or octane of gasoline that is appropriate for your car; pricey premium fuel won't boost your car's fuel economy.
8. Tighten that cap.
Gas will evaporate from your car's gas tank if it has an escape. Loose, missing, or damaged gas caps cause millions of gallons of gas to evaporate each year.
9. Wait until you're near empty.
Don't fill up until your tank is near empty; this will extend your gas because you are hauling a lighter load as the tank nears empty.
10. Find credit card discounts.
Some credit cards offer gas savings when you use the card for purchases. This works in much the same way that some credit card companies give you frequent-flier miles when you use their card for purchases.
11. Membership has its privileges.
Some gas stations offer membership benefits. There are also department and grocery stores that give discounts at the fuel pump when you use their store membership cards.
12. Screw the brand names.
Brand means nothing in the gas world; they are all using the same refineries, trucks, and pipelines to transport the fuel. Go for cost savings when it comes to the price of gas.
13. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Scope out gas prices while you're driving (but keep your eyes on the road, Smokey.) Some gas stations offer free coffee with fill up as well. And if it's not shade-grown and organic? Meh...live a little.
14. Don't get desperate.
The first gas station you encounter after a long thirsty stretch will never be the cheapest - drive a little further to find a cheaper station.
15. In the city, don't shop around.
Don't price shop for gas locally by driving around, the miles you drive will almost certainly eliminate the savings, and stop-and-go city traffic does a number on your average efficiency, not to mention your greenhouse gas emissions.
16. Exit, stage left. On the highway, that is.
On the highway, take an exit at a moderately sized city and head for the city center. There will likely be several stations near the ramp with cheaper gas.
More Ways to Save Gas: Things to Check Before You Get on the Road
17. Are they open?
Is the place you are going to open for business? Shops often have irregular hours, especially at nights and on the weekends. Always, always, always call or go online first!
18. Do you know where you are going?
Have you confirmed that the address you are given actually exists and is accurate? IF not, you could be wasting fuel and time on miles being lost.
19. Did you do your due diligence?
Use the Interwebz, newspapers, or phone book to comparison shop before you drive around to several stores.
20. Do they have what you want?
Restaurants often have long waits, products can be out of stock, and so on. Confirm that the place you're headed can deliver the goods before you get there.
21. Can it be delivered?
Find companies willing to delivery what you need to your home. Amazon, dry cleaning delivery services, food, and anything else that will bring what you need without burning up your gas may save some loot and the planet some warming.
22. Do you have to go right now?
Traveling in off-peak times will reduce your time spent in traffic, waiting for lights, etc.
23. Can you combine trips?
Combine errands into one trip and plan your stops for the most efficient route. You'll save yourself time and money.
Ways to Save Gas and Money: Are You Using Your Vehicle Wisely?
24. Could you walk or bike?
Just burn calories, man. Pay attention to why, where, and when you drive.
25. Is there a public transportation option available?
Look into public transportation; after you figure in driving around for parking and such, it may actually be faster.
26. Should you get a rental car?
A small car almost always has a better fuel economy due to its smaller mass; in certain situations you may want to rent a smaller vehicle for the trip instead of using your own. (Conversely, you can also choose to buy a smaller car from the get-go, and rent a larger one only when necessary.)
27. Did you maximize the square footage of your vehicle?
For human cargo, carpools reduce travel monotony and gas expense--all riders chip in to help you buy. Carpooling also reduces traffic congestion, gives the driver easier maneuverability and greater "steady speed" economy. If you're hauling materials such as wood, fill the whole vehicle on each trip.
How to Save Gas by Planning Your Route
28. No rough stuff.
Riding on dirt or gravel will rob you of up to 30% of your gas mileage.
29. Use alternate roads when safer, shorter, and straighter.
Compare traveling distance differences--remember that corners, curves and lane jumping requires extra gas. The shortest distance between two points is always straight as the crow flies.
30. Avoid heavy traffic and lots of traffic lights.
The shortest route is not always the most fuel efficient if you have to stop a lot.
Getting Ready for Takeoff
31. Are your tires fat or flat?
Proper tire pressure will give you better gas mileage. Inflate all tires to maximum limit; each tire should also be periodically spun, balanced and checked for out-of-roundness.
32. Lose the top.
Remove vinyl tops, they cause air drag.
33. Lose the racks.
Remove ski, bicycle, or luggage racks from your roof if you don't need it. They also cause air drag.
34. Drop the rest of the dead weight.
Get rid of all extra tires, back seats, unnecessary heavy parts. Extra weight reduces mileage, especially when driving up inclines.
35. Trucks, drop the tailgate.
You will get more mileage if you put down the tailgate due to less wind resistance.
36. Use your GPS.
A GPS unit will pay for itself in wasted time and gas very quickly.
How To Save Gas During Engine Startup
37. Turn off electronics.
Starting your car with electronic devices, like the radio, air conditioning, and 12-volt refrigerator turned off will put less strain on your engine which translates to better gas mileages.
38. Close the sun or moon roof.
Having these open will increase drag.
39. Turn the key and get moving.
Modern vehicles do not need to be warmed up, even on cold mornings - 30 seconds is plenty of time.
40. Turn off the choke.
If the car is revving, check that the automatic choke is disengaged after engine warm up.
41. Check for leaks.
Before you take your car out, check the driveway for gas tank leaks. Even little ones can waste plenty of fuel over time.
Ways to Save Gas While On The Road
42. Drive steadily.
Slowing down or speeding up wastes fuel. Maintain a steady pace--the ideal trip is one where you never stop except for signs and lights.
43. Don't exceed the legal speed limit.
However tough it may be to comprehend, the primarily goal of a speed limit for your traveling safety. However, it is also a good estimate of the most efficient speed for the road as well.
44. Careful with those brakes.
A car consumes the most gas as it accelerates, while a moving car doesn't require much gasoline to keep moving. Ideally, the brake should be used sparingly--expert hypermilers roll to a dead stop at every red light and stop sign.
45. Shift up early and down late.
If you have a manual transmission and want to save some gas, here's a hot tip: You need to shift up as soon as you can and shift down as the last possible moment.
46. Avoid hard stops.
Panic or hard stops will also cost you; anticipate stop signs, pedestrian walkways, and traffic lights.
47. Get on the good foot: Use your right one only.
To avoid riding the brake and wasting gas, use your right foot to control both pedals.
48. Don't weave.
The more you weave the more gas you burn. Keep your wheel still and steady as she goes.
49. Don't accelerate up hill.
Don't accelerate up a hill. When approaching it, build up speed before the incline, maintain on the way up, then coast down.
50. Follow traffic reports.
The radio is the road's information superhighway, and traffic reports are there for a reason. Use them to avoid jams and other delays, which can help keep your momentum steady.
How To Save Gas During City Driving
51. Eliminate jack-rabbit starts.
Always accelerate slowly when starting from a dead stop. A good rule of thumb is to not push the pedal down more than 1/4 of the total foot travel.
52. Beat the Wind.
Exceeding 40 mph forces your auto to overcome tremendous wind resistance, which will dramatically decrease your mileage. Try and keep it under 40, even if the speed limit is faster.
53. Time the lights.
Stoplights are sometimes timed for your motoring advantage; moving steadily at the speed limit will boost your chances of having the "green light" all the way.
54. Open up windows .
In stop-and-go traffic, shutting off the air conditioning and opening the windows can lighten your fuel use. Air conditioning can lower your fuel economy by 10 percent to 20 percent.
55. Turn it off.
You can save gas if you turn off you car while waiting at long traffic light sequences, railroad crossings or while your better half pulls money from the ATM. If you are not moving for more then 30 seconds, you should turn off the engine. For every hour you're sitting at idle, you're probably burning a gallon of gasoline.
Tips to Save Gas During Highway Driving
56. Keep windows closed.
Keep windows closed when traveling at highway speeds. Open windows cause air drag, reducing your mileage by 10%.
57. Cruise along.
If you have a cruise control and there isn't a whole lot of traffic, you probably should use it (it will keep the speed constant and hence doesn't need to accelerate).
Use the overdrive gears, as this will generally keep your RPM down and your wallet happy(er).
59. Kill the AC.
Using the air conditioning drinks gas - consider turning it off 5 minutes before you reach your destination. You will still stay cool for the duration of your trip, but will save gas from not having it blasting until the last second.
Ways to Save Gas During Shutdown
60. No revs.
Avoid "revving" the engine as you switch the engine off.
61. Forward only.
Park your car so that you can later begin to travel in forward gear; avoiding reverse gear maneuvers will save gas.
62. Go for the shade.
The hot summer sun makes the inside of your car feel like a sauna; when you get moving you will want to cool it down, either through rolling down the windows or using the AC. Parking your vehicle in the shade will help keep it cool when you start up again.
63. Use the garage.
Clear it out and make room for your car. Parking in your garage will help your car stay warm in winter and cool in summer, and you won't have to depend as much on your gas-guzzling air-conditioning or defroster when you drive.
64. Window prep.
In the summer, roll down the windows just a tiny bit so the air can circulate through your car while you are parked. This will help keep it cool when you start up again.
65. Park and walk.
If you wander all over the parking lot looking for that really close parking space, you'll use more gas. Don't be afraid to walk a ways--it might do you good. With gas prices on the rise, make the system work for you.
Save More Gas After the Trip Has Ended
66. Make a Log
After your trip, make a journal entry on the 'mileage victories' and 'mileage failures' of your trip.
Examples of these might be:
"Drove into the North End of Boston at 4PM. Ended up caught in gridlock, and couldn't find parking for 45 minutes. Stupid, stupid, stupid - never again!"
"Drove 12 miles to the hardware store only to find that they were out of lawn chairs. Should have called first."
"Left 10 minutes early to do the daycare pickup - Wow! No traffic on the major artery, and caught every green light. Will try this every day."
More Tips for Saving Gas and Money
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Gas Buddy Map Shows How Expensive Your Gas Is
How to Green Your Car
Hypermiling Saves Money on Gasoline
Nascar Driver Uses Hypermiling Tricks to Win Race
Hypermiling Couple Gets Two Entries in Guiness World Records Book
Hypermiling Becoming More Popular as Gas Prices Rise
For More On Saving Money Despite Record Gas Prices
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