The late George Carlin once joked, “Kilometers are shorter than miles. Save gas, take your next trip in kilometers." Unfortunately, reality trumps wit in this age of gas prices. Grabbing the car keys for a fast run to the corner store now requires you to think twice about necessity. Consequently, instead of miles per gallon, some drivers now base their vehicle's efficiency by errands per gallon, or, in extreme cases, kid's soccer games per gallon.
Carpooling, riding public transportation and pedaling to work on a bicycle are championed as the common sense solutions. But these solutions are geared mainly to those who reside in cities and well-managed suburbs. Residents in fringe townships aren't afforded such options. They must purchase a hybrid vehicle, drive at permanent-school-zone speed or limit their trips.
All warrant merit, but lack universal practicality. Fortunately, there are other gas-saving options that require nothing more than slight alterations in your buying and driving habits.
- Become gas-buying nocturnal. Only fill your tank during the coolest time of the day―late evening or early morning. Gas is more dense in cooler temperatures. And since fuel pumps measure by volume, rather than by density, you'll receive more gas for your buck.
- Don't overfill your tank. If using an automatic nozzle, stop at the first click.
- Avoid the fuels or additives that claim to increase your gas mileage. The only thing these “wonder liquids" increase is your spending.
- If you don't mind the inconvenience, only fill your tank half-full. Less fuel means less weight.
- Give yourself more time, especially during interstate travel. Driving slower increases gas mileage.
- Use air conditioning (AC) when driving at higher speeds. Wind drag caused by open windows is more gas-consuming than AC when driving faster, for example on the highway. Limit AC use when driving in city traffic. Gas mileage can decrease by use of AC at lower speeds.
- Limit warming your engine on winter mornings. An idling engine, regardless of size, equates to no mpg.
- Employ cruise control on extended flat stretches of highway, but deactivate on hills. Cruise control loses momentum on the ascent, and chugs gas on the descent. Yes, the savings are minimal, but since your right foot has nothing else to do at the time―why not?
- Avoid the type of jackrabbit starts that “high tide" the blood in your head to the back of your skull. The faster you accelerate, the more gas you gorge.
- Avoid over tapping your brakes. The more you brake, the more you must accelerate, causing greater gas consumption.
- Eliminate aerodynamic drag by removing bike and ski racks when not in use.
- Remove the flag of your favorite sport team. Your team will survive this loss of outward support, and, better yet, your vehicle's aerodynamic drag will improve.
- Don't convert your trunk into a storage shed. Less weight equates into better mileage.
- Plot your driving route, if possible. Avoid, for instance, congested areas during rush hour, or known construction zones.
- Keep your car tires properly inflated. Under-inflation shucks mileage from your gas tank.
- Adhere to regular service checks for your vehicle.