Fuel Economy - Saving Gasoline
So you want to use less gas but you aren't ready to buy a hybrid yet. What do you do?
There are a few simple steps that work and a lot of stuff that's just wishful thinking.
First, what really doesn't work: Using higher-octane gasoline does not get you more miles per gallon unless the engine in your car, SUV or truck was built to use midgrade or premium gas. If you're thinking about trying this one, read your owner's manual first. Yeesh, I sound like my father.
Aftermarket stuff to boost fuel economy simply doesn't. The July 2008 Consumer Reports warns "Don't be tempted to buy devices that claim to improve fuel economy. We've tested several over the years and haven't found any that met its claims." AAA magazine got into more details in its March/April 2006 issue, noting that devices like "magnets, intake-air agitators, fuel energizers, fuel additives, and lubricant additives . . . provide no significant gas-saving benefit." Which is good, because I have no idea what any of those are or where to get them.
Opening the windows will not save you gas over using the air conditioner on the highway. In fact, the extra drag on the car, SUV or truck . . . Look, I'm just going to write "car" from now on because it takes the fewest key strokes. You can add "SUV or truck" in your mind if that works for you.
Where was I? Oh, right. The extra drag on your car from the open windows at highway speeds will make it use more gas. Now, for short hops to the grocery store through a school zone, the answer is slightly more complicated. If you are driving less than 40 miles per hour, you'll use less gas if you open the windows to cool down. If you are driving over 40, use your car's air conditioning. What you do if you're cruising at a steady 40 mph is up to you.
By the way, don't bother writing to tell me that if you tailgate a semi, it will cut down on wind resistance. I don't care. I have enough on my conscience without adding to it by encouraging people to break the law--let alone die--to save a few pennies on gas.
Now, what actually works: Gentle acceleration. Does anybody else remember those animated ads from the Jimmy Carter era saying that jackrabbit starts waste gas so "Don't be a leadfoot," or am I dating myself? If you want to save gas, stop stomping on the accelerator and the brake - that can decrease your fuel economy by around 20 percent. Go slowly and smoothly when speeding up. Keep to a steady speed on the highway. Using the cruise control can be the way to go here.
Don't slam on the brakes. Do as much coasting to the stop sign as you can. Try to think about winning as filling up the tank less often rather than getting where you're going 7 seconds earlier. Then you'll be less likely to weave in and out of traffic, tailgate, and all the other ups and downs that suck down gas. As a bonus, the smoother you drive, the longer your brakes, tires, engine, and transmission will last.
Use a nearby gas station. Okay, explain to me how it makes sense to use gas to drive 10 miles in order to buy gas at 3 cents less per gallon. I just don't get that one. Plan to fill up when you're near a cheaper station. (Remember, the cheaper stations are not near the freeways.)
Combine errands while you are out so you spend less time to-ing and fro-ing behind the wheel. At the very least, use your car instead of your SUV or truck if you have a choice.
And, of course, the all-time best gas saver: Don't use the car. Take the bus downtown. Walk to the corner grocery store. Ride a bike a mile to the hardware store for nails.
NEW: MORE ABOUT SAVING MONEY ON GASOLINE