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Here in the far northern boondocks, my wallet now shrieks in horror every time it sees a gas pump. But $3.84 a gallon is nothing compared to California, where gas is nearly a dollar more. People are driving all over creation trying to shave a few pennies off the price. But what if we could save that cash and more every time we hit the accelerator?
It's a question that ought to be on everyone's mind in an era of lower petroleum supplies and higher costs. In addition to economy, there are also questions of ecology to consider as in, has anybody seen the Arctic ice sheet lately? Neither have scientists, who this summer found climate change shrinking it to down to size of a freezer pack.
It's time to get serious about gas mileage, and the Obama administration recently did just that by issuing rules that will raise the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 mpg by 2025, roughly double today's anemic 29 mpg. The standards will save 12 billion barrels of oil and an average of more than $8,000 per vehicle when implemented.(1) That's the equivalent of lowering gas prices by $1 per gallon.(2)
But here's the thing: we can lower our gas bills on our own right now by wringing every possible mile out of every gallon we buy. Here's how:
- Keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure. You'll boost fuel economy by more than 3 percent.(3)
- Consult your car's manual and use its recommended grade of motor oil to improve your gas mileage by 1–2 percent. Brands with "Energy Conserving" on the API performance symbol, contain friction-reducing additives that further enhance engine performance.(4)
- Keep your engine properly tuned-up. Fixing a faulty oxygen sensor, for example, can improve gas mileage up to 40 percent.(5)
- Check your air filter. Replacing a dirty air filter on a carbureted engine will improve gas mileage by as much as 14 percent.(6)
- Don't rush. Each 5 mph increase above 60 mph is equal to paying about 28 cents more per gallon at today's prices.(7)
- Mellow out. Aggressive driving lowers fuel economy by 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent in town. Replace jack-rabbit starts with slow, steady acceleration.(8)
- Avoid carrying items on your vehicle's roof. The increased aerodynamic drag cuts mileage by up to 5 percent.(9)
- Travel light. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk can add as much as 8 cents per gallon to your fuel costs.(10)
- Every two minutes spent idling wastes enough gas to drive a mile. Since most cars use less gas to start up than they do idling for 10 seconds, kill your ignition when you're stuck in traffic or a queue.(11)
- If you have cruise control, use it on highways to maintain a constant speed, but not on secondary roads where all those ups and downs cause engines to waste gas maintaining speed.
- Combine multiple errands into a single trip and plan out the shortest itinerary. Several short trips taken from a cold start will use twice as much fuel as a longer multi-stop trip of the same distance taken with a warm engine.(12)
These strategies can help us use less gas and conserve more money. But the best way to save is not to use any gasoline at all! So take public transportation, carpool, bike, or walk whenever you can. Every gallon of fuel you leave in the ground stops about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.(13) And it cuts at least a month off the second mortgage you had get to buy the stuff in the first place!
Photo: Anita Gould
(3) (4) (5) (6) http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/maintain.shtml
(9) (10) http://blog.usa.gov/post/20175208334/how-to-improve-your-gas-mileage