Anyone remember how outraged we all were when gas prices first topped $2 a gallon?
Today, we don’t even dream of prices under the three dollar mark – and prices seem to creep continually higher than the temperature reading in your car on a hot summer’s day. For those of us who have no choice but to drive, we need to find ways to make that overpriced tank of gas last as long as possible, especially when our thoughts turn towards road trips and vacations.
So many of the lessons our parents tried to impart on us when they taught us to drive umpteen years ago still hold true. Don’t be an aggressive driver. Don’t floor the accelerator the minute the light turns green and avoid the temptation to brake at the last minute when approaching a red light. Instead, accelerate slowly when the light turns green and start reducing your speed in anticipation of red lights, two habits that according to statistics on FuelEconomy.gov can lower your gas mileage by as much as 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent in local driving.
Keeping your tires properly inflated will also help boost mileage and can potentially offer fuel savings of up to 3.3 percent, according to the Department of Energy. Bear in mind that your tires will naturally lose air on a regular basis and under-inflated tires will create additional rolling resistance, causing your engine to work harder to maintain your desired speed. If you aren’t sure what the recommended air pressure is for your tires, try checking your doorjamb for a sticker listing that information, if your car still has its original tires. If not, check out the manufacturer’s website for the recommended pressure for what you currently have.
Making sure that your car is properly tuned up is another way to keep it from turning into a money-hungry gas-guzzler. Be sure to replace your fuel and air filters at regular intervals and monitor your engine oil, transmission fluid and radiator coolant to keep the engine running at peak levels, which will in turn maximize fuel efficiency. It goes without saying that it is worthwhile to cultivate a good working relationship with a reliable mechanic who can keep your car in optimum running condition, thereby giving you more bang for your buck when it comes to gasoline usage.
Remember those signs that said “55 saves lives,” reminding us to stick to the speed limit in order to prevent accidents? Well, keeping to speeds of approximately 50 miles per hour will help your engine achieve optimal fuel efficiency as gas mileage generally decreases rapidly at higher speeds. CNN Money reports that for every 10 miles per hour you drive over 60, you can expect to see a decrease of approximately four miles per gallon. If you get 20 miles per gallon when you are driving at 60, expect to get only 16 miles per gallon at 70 and a paltry 12 miles per gallon at 80. And need I remind you just how expensive a speeding ticket will be if you get caught doing 80 miles per hour? I promise you, you definitely don’t want to go there.
If you aren’t in the habit of using cruise control, you might want to start doing so now. No matter how efficiently you drive your car, its on-board computer will be even more efficient. In tests run by Edmunds.com, a Land Rover LR3 driven with its cruise control set to 70 miles per hour yields 14 percent better mileage than the same vehicle driven at similar speeds with driver-controlled speed. So if you haven’t figured out how to work the cruise control on your car, the time to do so is now. Not only will you avoid the risk of being pulled over for speeding, but your wallet will thank you next time you fill up.