Monday, January 9, 2012

Guest post: Saving money on gas.

How to Save Money on Gas
Though gas prices are always fluctuating, they always seem to rise over time, representing a significant expense for those of us who commute to work, who have to travel a lot, or who don’t have the benefit of convenient mass transportation. Of course, driving a hybrid or an electric vehicle and finding ways to reduce your need to travel are some of the best ways to reduce gas costs. However, if you are stuck with your old gas guzzler to drive to a job that isn’t likely to change in the near future, there are some other easy ways that you can conserve gas and cut your overall expense:

Fuel Choice
Most vehicles can operate just as well on the lowest grade of octane as they can on the "super" grade – and you’ll save a lot of money in the process. Very few cars require mid- or premium-grade fuel. If yours doesn’t, don’t waste your money on the pricier gas. You won’t get better performance; you’ll only pay more. The exception here is if you have a high compression engine (or a turbo), premium does make a different because it allows the engine management system to run at the recommended ignition timing which allows the engine to run closer to its advertised power. Lower grade gas is lower octane and the engines have to retard their ignition timing to compensate for this. In doing so, you lose horsepower and torque.

Tire Maintenance
Tires that are not properly inflated will cause your vehicle to consume more gas. Check your tires weekly to ensure that they have enough air and that they are at the appropriate pressure. Also be sure to check for signs of wear or stripping, as this can lead to less-efficient tires and greater gas consumption.

Engine Maintenance
Making sure that your engine is well-maintained is also critical to ensuring fuel efficiency. In particular, be sure that your filters – air, oil, gas – are clean and well-maintained. Other items of note include spark plugs and belts. When these items become worn or clogged, they can contribute to extra fuel consumption by forcing the engine to work harder.

Monitor Speed
Accelerating and driving your car at high speeds contributes to greater gas consumption. If you don’t like to drive slowly, you can conserve gas by maintaining a steady speed. This means being mindful not to quickly start and stop in congested traffic and to use cruise control when travelling at normal speeds. Both practices will minimize the amount that you have to accelerate and will reduce your overall gas consumption.

Temperature Control
If you live in a relatively mild climate, this one may be a bit easier for you: Whenever you can, avoid using your air conditioning and roll down your windows or use your fan instead. Air conditioning will significantly increase your gas usage. In the hot summer months, you can also park your car in the shade to minimize the power needed to cool down the interior. In the winter, you can park your car inside a garage or in the direct sunlight in the morning to reduce the time needed to defrost and warm up the car (which runs the engine idly, using gas).

Reduce Drag
The harder your engine has to work to power your car, the more gas you will use. To make it easier for your engine, reduce the amount of drag on your car. You can do this by eliminating weight (clean out your trunk and don’t pile up luggage on the roof), keeping your windows rolled up (to eliminate air turbulence), and drafting behind large trucks on the highway.
It is small steps like these that can help you save a significant amount of money by reducing gas consumption. If you want to make a really big cut in your gas budget, find ways to carpool, bike to work, or take public transportation. You’ll save money and help the environment!

About the author:
Amanda Tradwick is a grant researcher and writer for She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware, and has recently finished research on low income college grants and student grants in new york.

1 comment:

David said...

Anecdotally, I have heard of studies that contest the open-your-windows-instead-of-using-AC theory.

At higher speeds, the extra drag on the car caused by the windows being open causes more of a fuel drag than having the AC on. The break-even point depends on the car, but I seem to recall 80 km/h (50 mph) as being the general speed.

The rule of thumb I recall is that if you are doing city or stop-go driving, open the windows, and use the AC at highway speeds.

Obviously the ideal situation is windows up and A/C off, but in some climates that's just cruel.

Other than that, a good summary of fuel-friendly habits. I personally use the cruise everywhere I can -- even as slow as 40- or 50-km/h -- and hit the "resume" button as fast as I can to let the computer handle bringing the car up to speed if it is pre-set. I also try to pre-set at the speed limit instead of higher to regulate my speed. As a result my fuel consumption is measurably better.