With a recession on, everyone is feeling the pinch and the family car is the prime suspect for gobbling up your budget. As desperate drivers with an eighth of a tank have known for many years, you can make a little go a long way if you apply a few simple strategies.
First, reduce the weight the engine has to carry (obviously keep the spare tyre). If you habitually drive around with a full set of tools in your trunk, put them in your garage.
Economic use of the throttle will make a huge difference to the amount of fuel you use. You use no fuel when you use the natural gravity of hills to keep speed constant, use momentum instead of throttle to go up hills, and let the car coast to stops instead of braking (think of the energy you’re wasting every time you have to brake!). Some fuel conservers have found that they can complete a whole trip without having to use the brake once.
While speeding along the highway might eat up the miles, it also eats up fuel. Cut your speed by 5 mph wherever you are and you’ll soon notice the difference in fuel consumption. Apparently, the optimum speed for good fuel consumption is 56 mph.
It should go without saying that travelling in the wrong gear eats up fuel at an enormous rate, so practise smooth gear changes or, if you drive an auto, make sure its gears are in top condition. When parking your car, set it so that you have the least amount of manoevring and gear shifts when you start up again.
Begin viewing your air conditioning as the driving equivalent of eating at an expensive restaurant. Air conditioning drains the battery, in turn causing more pull on the alternator and using more fuel. Take this advice: ‘If it’s hot open the window rather than turn on the air conditioning, if it’s really hot open another window and turn the blowers on, if your steering wheel starts melting then turn on the air conditioning.’* The same applies for heating and use of the car stereo.
Some scientific-sounding but not-yet confirmed tips: Apparently, the trick to receiving more gas for your buck when purchasing is to buy early morning or late at night. This is because of presumed gas density at low temperatures. Also according to popular rumour if you travel along the highway with your windows open it reduces your speed by 10% due to air drag (not yet confirmed by Mythbusters).
Car pool and split your gas expense. If you can’t find anyone from work, advertise around your neighbourhood – there’s sure to be someone headed in the same direction as you. Not only will you have some company and save money, you won’t have to drive every day.
Finally, the absolute top way to fuel: don’t use your car. A wild concept, but a sound one. Walk to the store. Consider taking public transport to work. Buy a bicycle, and use it; if you have children, do a family bike ride to school. These methods are time consuming, but they have benefits beyond transportation: walking and cycling give you exercise, and when you’re sitting on a bus you can take ‘me’ time, and read, listen to music, sleep or even study. Plus, you can sleep easier knowing you’re not adding to the pollution we all pump into the atmosphere daily.
*This beautiful quote is from one of the contributors to TorqueCars.com (who unfortunately didn’t post his name!).