Considering the always-rising cost of gasoline (or "Petrol" if you live across the ocean), not to mention the environmental impact of sucking raw oil petroleum from the ground, many people find themselves looking for ways to Get Better Gas Mileage.
Some people think that increasing the efficiency of their car or truck is a lost cause, that any changes they make to their driving habits or engine configurations won't add up. But the truth is that even the smallest change can quickly add up, and the savings is compounded by the amount your usually drive and the cost of gas or diesel fuel. For instance, if you normally drive just 50 miles per day, your car gets 20 miles per gallon, and gasoline costs $3 per gallon (all are very normal figures, these aren't pulled from the sky), here's how much you could save by increasing your mileage to just 21 miles per gallon (or "MPG" for short):
Savings Per Day: $0.36
Savings Per Week: $2.50
Savings Per Month (30 days): $10.71
Savings Per Year: $130.36
Not too shabby, eh? The thing to keep in mind here is that what seems like a little on the day-to-day level adds up to a very substantial sum when you start spreading it out over time. And the figures I used were very conservative. Should you increase your MPGs by more than one, the cost of gasoline climb higher than $3 or your daily commute last longer than 50 miles, those savings will climb even higher.
Okay, so we know that improving gas mileage can save us some bucks, but the million dollar question remains:
How To Get Better Gas Mileage
On the macro scale, there are really only two main ways to get better gas mileage:
1. Change your driving habits, and
2. Change the mechanical characteristics of your automobile
Don't get frightened, I'm not going to give you some complex tips on overhauling your engine. On the contrary, these five tips are so simple and easy that anyone can implement them, regardless of where you live or what mechanical background your have.
So let's get to work:
Tip #1: Lighten Your Foot.
You've probably heard the expression "Lead Foot?" It's in reference to how fast a person drives and how aggressively he or she jams down on the accelerator pedal when starting from a stop light or passing another car. This aggressive type of driving is very hard on your gas mileage, and easing up even a little bit could pay off very big in a short amount of time.
Each time you smash down that pedal, your engine sucks gas at an extremely fast rate while it strains to accelerate to your liking. Instead, gradually apply the gas until you reach the speed limit. Will you be the first off the line? Probably not. Should that make you feel insecure as a person? No. For some reason, many folks have built up a level of competitiveness regarding driving style, and are afraid to "Lose." Let me tell you, if you're focused on winning the aggressive driver game, you'll lose it at the pump.
Tip #2: Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated.
When it comes to simple mechanical fixes, they don't get much easier than making sure your tires are inflated to the specifications outlined in your vehicle's owner's manual. Yet in terms of mechanical solutions, this could have the biggest impact on your car's MPG than anything else.
Think about riding a bike with a half-inflated tire. Remember how much harder it is? You petal harder than normal yet the bike moves slower than ever. It's the same thing with your car, just substitute gasoline for your personal pedal power.
Some experts have said that constantly checking your tire pressure on a regular basis could save you several miles per gallon in fuel efficiency without doing anything else.
Tip #3: Keep Your Windows Closed.
You've probably heard time and time again that running your air conditioner on a hot day wastes gasoline, and simply rolling your windows down is akin to a "Poor Man's Air Conditioner." Guess what? That's an old wives tale. Sure the air condition will strain your engine and cause it to run less efficiently, thus soaking up more gasoline, BUT (and this is a very big "But"), opening you windows adversely affects your vehicle's drag properties.
Simply put, every inch that you open one or more windows changes the way your car travels through air. It becomes increasingly less aerodynamic. Think of an open window as a parachute, resisting your engine's efforts to push the car forward.
Granted this is more of a factor when you travel fast, such as on highways or freeways, so use your best judgment. A general rule of thumb is to roll your windows down in town, then when you get on faster stretches of road, roll them up and turn on the air conditioner.
Tip #4: Change Your Oil.
Hopefully we all know that changing your motor oil and oil filter at regular intervals will increase the life span of your engine and reduce wear on its internal parts, but did you know that it can also save you money at the gasoline pump, too?
As oil gets old, it gets, well, sludgy. As it does so, it loses its super-slick and ultra-thin properties, and becomes a thick, gooey mess. Imagine swimming through a pool filled with fresh, clean oil; then through another one full of tar. That's what your car's engine does with old oil.
Make sure you follow your owner's manual's recommendations for oil changes. Don't let the oil gunk up and rob you of fuel efficiency.
(Note: Use the correct grade of motor oil for your car, otherwise severe engine damage could occur. Refer to your owner's manual for more information).
Tip #5: Don't Buy High Grade Gas Unless Your Car Specifically Needs It.
Okay, this isn't technically a fuel efficiency tip, but it's still a great money saving note and represents one of the biggest mistakes drivers make: Buying higher octane gasoline than your car needs.
With all the hype the oil companies publish, it's hard not to think that higher octane gasoline will make your car run stronger and more efficiently. But the truth is that any octane rating higher than your owner's manual recommends won't positively affect your engine at all. It won't hurt it necessarily, but it won't help it, either. And considering the higher price tag for premium fuels, savings here can add up very fast.
Check your owner's manual for a recommended minimum octane rating, and don't purchase gasoline rated any higher than that number. Most cars are designed to run in the 85 to 87 octane range, while some more exotic models run at 89. Only the fire-breathing roadsters run on gas rated higher than this.
(Note: While higher than necessary octane gasoline won't positively affect your car, using too low of an octane rating can damage it. Check your owner's manual for specific information regarding your vehicle).
Putting It All Together
There you have it, five of the easiest ways to save money at the pump. Each one of them can yield tremendous savings, but imagine if you implemented all of them? Given the ever increasing costs of gasoline and diesel, not to mention the affect harvesting crude oil is having on the environment, you owe it to yourself, your planet and at the very least, your wallet, to implement these super simple tips.