In tough economic times, and with prices at the gas pump still hovering around $3.25 per gallon, many of us look to alternatives to lower our fuel usage. Some of us have even explored into upgrading our larger, older vehicle for a smaller more fuel efficient model.
But there are many basic no cost/low cost practices that we can use in order to save a few bucks at the pump, and get the most out of the vehicle we already own.
These simple tips are some of the basic practices we tend to overlook that aid in compromising our fuel savings and vehicle performance.
Did you shop around locally for the best priced quality fuel? Price does matter so does the quality. Sure you can buy gas from that one station that may be twenty cents cheaper than everyone else, but will the grade and quality create vehicle issues down the road? Most stations do post their prices for the following day by 3pm of the current day. Choose wisely. It’s not to your advantage to travel 10 miles, pass up on three filling stations to save two cents a gallon.
Did you consolidate trips, conduct errands in one large trip, and limit how many short trips you drive? Many of us have a tendency to leave and return from our home or office many times throughout the day. By consolidating our trips and proper planning, not only are we saving money on fuel cost, we end up putting less wear and tear on our vehicles, getting more done and saving time for other business activities.
Do you carpool when available? Do you walk or bike if the distance is less than a mile? This is about just leaving the car at home and catching a ride with the neighbor, or walking a few blocks to fetch the morning newspaper. It takes at least a mile or two for a car to reach its normal operating temperature. During that phase of startup, the vehicle uses it most fuel because the vehicle is in “open loop,” or warm up, and the shorter the vehicle travels, the less chance the vehicle has to get acclimated to the driving conditions. Less than a mile, hop on the bike or put one foot in front of another.
Do you drive within the speed limit? In today’s rush, we all tend to drive a bit fast. Speed limits were not just designed for safety; they were also modeled after peak vehicle performance curve, for those particular road conditions. Driving within the limits will also allow for you to lighten up at the throttle, burning unnecessary fuel in times of less favorable road conditions.
Do you lower air conditioning levels for when you only need it? Air conditioning units on vehicles do draw down power on the battery, the electronics, and on the load of the engine. The engine in order to cool itself will consume more fuel. With scorching temps on the rise for the summer months, the A/C is a treat. Just have balance in your demand on the system because you will pay for it at the pump.
Do you make sure your tires are properly inflated? Under inflated tires provide for more friction and resistance to the road. This requires more energy to power the vehicle, hence more fuel usage. Most tires are rated beyond the rating that is displayed on the sidewall, and can be overinflated by 5 pounds per square inch. This assures a harder ride, but it also assures less wasted effort at the tires.
Did you remove all of the extra weight and objects from the truck/storage area? That late night return home from the road trip with suitcases and belongings can have an effect on fuel economy. As soon as you return home, allow for some time to empty the car. Many of us drive around with items from trip after trip that compounds and becomes a burden on vehicle. Less weight, the less fuel you will need to move the entire package down the road.
Did you use the correct oil in the engine? Less friction equals less fuel used. Also the wrong weight oil can case engine temps to rise, and the need for extra fuel to cool engines down. Some motor oils now offer extra formulas for high mileage, synthetics, and for specialized applications (towing-racing-etc.), allowing for engines to operate more smoothly, lessening the need for be draws on fuel.
Do you drive aggressively? Jack rabbits, erratic starts and stops, racing around a bend just to slow down, are just some of the behaviors that compromise fuel economy. Do you weave in and out of traffic? Do you try to beat the red light? All of these habits are contributors in losing fuel economy. Remember, the first and ultimate tool in fuel economy is the foot that rest on the gas pedal, and our own judgment to drive conservatively.
Did you make sure your car is properly maintained? When the basic general maintenance of any piece of equipment is degraded, it will not perform in its peak efficiency. Whenever a vehicle has a check engine light, base program falls into a default state, providing for basic functions but not for maximizing the fuel economy. The longer you drive with a check engine light, the further your vehicle will reduce its efficiency.
You know it’s really easy to put these tips into practice. All it takes is some time investment and taking the personal responsibility to do so. In addition to these tips, there are many aftermarket add-ons that provide a return on investment. We shall review some history of fuel economy and some of the available technologies that have proven themselves in the market in our next entry. Until then, do your best to live in “The Green Lane,” going green while saving green.
Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.