Want to save some money this summer? And be green in the process?
The summer is upon us and thus the summer travel season. Although gas prices are down a bit, they are still rather hideous, aren’t they? It has been a long time since gas dipped below the $2 per gallon mark, but it was way down there within memory, wasn’t it? So as we plan our summer travels and wistfully recall fonder gas prices, the ugly reality of $3.60 or so just won’t go away.
Fortunately, there is something you can do about it! By following a few simple guidelines, you can improve your car’s mileage and have more money to spend on other, more appropriate summer expenses.
Gas saving measures come in a couple of varieties: mainly car maintenance and driving technique.
Keeping your car serviced is part of good ownership. It can also make a difference in your mileage, up to 5% according to www.fueleconomy.gov, provided that you have the proper grade of motor oil lubing your engine. You can also improve your mileage by keeping your tires properly inflated. Particularly before a road trip, check your tire pressure and adjust it as necessary. Don’t go overboard; overinflating tires can be dangerous. Stay within 2 or 3 pounds of the manufacturer’s recommendation. Consult your car’s owner’s manual if you are not certain about either motor oil grades or tire inflation. If you’ve lost your owner’s manual, check the internet.
Keeping your car tidy can also save miles. Sure, it can be handy to carry around your golf clubs at all times, but excess weight means excess work for your engine and less efficiency for your gasoline dollar.
There are driving techniques that can improve mileage and save money as well. The first, and least fun, is to watch your mileage. Adhering to posted speed limits in town not only makes good legal sense, it is also good manners and keeps your mileage in line. Avoid “jack-rabbit” starts and sudden braking. Both of these are inefficient uses of your engine and waste gas. Also, avoid idling whenever possible. When you are idle, you are getting zero miles per gallon.
There is an e-mail that makes the rounds every so often that purports the practices of filling up your tank in the morning and refilling when the tank is only half-empty will improve your gas mileage. The science behind this is somewhat arguable, but it isn’t like there is anything wrong with either one. Just don’t expect drastic improvements.
Getting ready for a big trip? Here are four things you can do: 1) Get your car serviced if you are within 500 miles of needing a visit to the mechanic. 2) Make sure that your tires are properly inflated. Consult your owner’s manual and do not over inflate. 3) Pack sensibly. 4) Choose a reasonable speed at which to drive.
Another word about driving speed and saving gas: there is a balance to be maintained. Sure, your car may function more efficiently at 55 mph than 75 mph, but weigh the savings against the costs. Assume that you are driving 400 miles to get to your destination and that driving 55 mph rather than 75 mph realizes a 20% savings on gas. At $3.85 per gallon, you will save over $20 for the round trip. However, you will also spend almost four more hours on the road. Saving money is good, but time is also a valuable resource, especially when you’re on vacation.
And if you choose to drive 55 mph, please, for the love of God, stay in the right hand lane. Thank you.