In light a fragile economy, I’d like to talk about 13 tactics you can employ to save hundreds at the pump, without buying a Prius. We know gasoline prices have risen to economy-shattering levels, so what can you do about it? Fight it — use less, spend less and enjoy life more.
- Inflate Your Tires to Your Vehicle’s Recommendations.
A myth out there states you’re supposed to inflate your tires as to what is specified on your tire’s sidewall. This is vastly inaccurate, since that’s the maximum pressure that the tire is built to handle, not the recommended tire pressure. Usually, the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle is located along the inside of the driver’s door or in the owner’s manual. If you have questions on it, contact your dealer and they can look it up for you.
For most sedans, fill it to 35PSI, for most SUVs, it’s 45PSI. Fill your tires when they are “cold,” usually at night or when you haven’t been driving it for a while. This will ensure that the built-up pressure from heat isn’t a factor.
If you are going on a trip on highway, it’s generally OK to fill the tires a bit more than the specified pressure. I usually fill my tires to 42PSI. Less surface area on the pavement means less traction and rolling resistance, thus more MPG. (It’s also important to understand that this can also increase your stopping distance, too.)
- Change your Oil, Oil Filter, Air Filter Routinely (3 mo. and/or 3000 mi.).
It’s been said before, but I’ll reiterate the importance of changing your oil, oil filter and air filter (if it’s paper-based). Oil is the only barrier between your pistons and the cylinders, and the older oil becomes, it loses its viscosity (slickness). It also lubricates the crankcase, rods and helps protect the metals from oxidizing. Changing it routinely ensures that it’s clean and operating at peak performance all the time. Air filters collect the dirt and pollutants on the road, so it’s a good idea to replace that at the same time, even if it “looks” clean. It’s good principle to change air filters every four oil changes (12K miles)… but if you’re in dirty climates like Arizona, then you might as well replace it every oil change or so.
- Lighten the Load, Remove Unneeded Cargo.
You wouldn’t like to run a marathon with a sandbag in your arms, right? Well, you’re car doesn’t like it either. If you have extraneous hardware in your trunk, remove it. For those who subscribe to AAA, consider removing your spare tire, lug wrench and jack. This will lower the weight of your vehicle and can help improve gas mileage. Minivans with removable seats, consider removing your back row of seats if they won’t be occupied.
- Use Fuel Additives To Improve Your Fuel.
Today’s fuels are refined pretty well, but cheap gasoline is cheap for a reason, they are dirty. The dirt they produce collects in your intake manifold, injectors and fuel take. Occasionally adding a fuel additive will help break up these deposits, resulting in more power and efficiency. Carbon deposits act like a sponge, soaking up costly gasoline and your fuel management system has to compensate by sucking up more fuel. I recommend using Lucas Oil Fuel Treatment, as it does exactly what it’s supposed to do and is completely safe for all vehicles. It’s available at your local Autozone or Advanced Auto stores.
- Older Cars: Engine De-carboning Service.
What is de-carboning? After many years of reliable service, engines on cars build up a lot of carbon deposits in the intake manifold and along the valves. Over time, these deposits build up so much that over-the-counter fuel additives aren’t enough to break it down. Most auto shops offer a service known as “BG Service” since they use BG Products to perform it. Ask the shop about the procedure. You want to have them do air intake cleaning, fuel system (fuel injection) cleaning and run 44K through your system. The process takes about 2 hours, and you will observe a lot of those deposits literally thrown out of your exhaust pipe. Afterward, you should notice a rapid improvement on your vehicle’s performance and fuel economy.
- Consider Upgrading to an Aftermarket Cold-Air Intake.
A cold-air intake (CAI)is a tube that replaces the traditional air box located under the hood. The goal of a CAI is to provide fresh, cold, and unrestricted air to the intake for your engine, resulting in swifter response and less wasted fuel. True CAIs is one that receives a blast of fresh air outside of the engine area. The filter on these is made of metals and do not need to be replaced as frequently as paper made ones. A popular (and CARB compliant) company is K&N Filters, but you may also do a search on eBay for your vehicle and a Cold Air Intake to find one that fits. Tip: Short-ram intakes aren’t as affective, but still will improve fuel economy.
- Drive Slower, Maintain 55MPH When Possible.
Yes, I know we hate this tip, but it’s physics. For most vehicles, 55MPH is the fastest speed that will get us to our destinations quickly without much wind-resistance. For every 10MPH over, wind-resistance increases exponentially, essentially cutting down gas mileage considerably. Edmunds confirms this fact by road testing it, the EPA has been saying for ages, and so have your parents. Tip: Leave earlier, drive slower and don’t sit in the left lane, thanks!
- Work Smarter, Not Harder: Combine Errands and Trips.
If you have a lot of errands to run, it’s more efficient to drive to your farthest destination (from home) and work your way back. You will probably get things done quicker and save gas in the process. If you have a time-specific engagement, push it towards the evening (if possible), when fuel economy increases.
- For the Experienced Driver: Drafting.
Note: This is dangerous and should only be done by experienced drivers who trust their driving abilities. (As discussed in the comments, drafting a big rig is an extremely bad idea.)
You can save a lot of gas on the highway by drafting. The same technique used in Nascar, where you ride the bumper of the person behind you to minimize wind resistance. It’s more easily done with Big Rigs due to their size. In a MythBusters test of this theory, drafting at a distance of 10ft (3/4 of one car length) is ideal to conserve approximately 20% of gas.
- Find the Cheapest Gas Near You.
It’s no surprise that gas stations hike the price of gas near metropolitan (and rural) areas, so be the wise one who compares gas prices and pick the best one closest to you, on your route. It makes no sense to travel 10 miles to a gas station to save a nickel — pick your battles. The user community, Gas Buddy, is great for a quick comparison of your area; however, now Mapquest has added a feature that maps gas prices out for your convenience.
- Change Your Spark Plugs, Plug Wires for Better Conductivity.
If you can’t remember the last time you changed your spark plugs or wires, you probably should change them. Spark plugs are the only things that creates combustion in your engine. It may worth your while to use premium Iridium-based spark plugs which are proven to last longer and give a “hotter” spark.
- Use Synthetic Motor Oil (and Don’t Go Back).
Synthetic oil is known to last longer (often 6000 miles), but their viscosity is longer-lasting and often have additives which extend the life of your engine parts. The only drawback to going to full-synthetic is the inability to go back to conventional (mineral) motor oil. Synthentic oil is intended for extreme applications like automotive racing, premium sports cars; but many newer vehicles today come with it.
- Replace Your Fuel Filter Annually.
Fuel is not as clean as you’d like. If you’ve taken down your gas tank and looked inside, you would be shocked at all the dirt and sludge that collects at the bottom. Over time, it can build up in your fuel filter and restrict flow to your injectors, robbing much needed power. This also can cause your fuel pump to work extra hard and lead to premature failure.
You don’t have to employ all of these tips, but it would help considerably if you take care of your vehicle regularly, and combine trips and do a little sleuthing to find the best-priced gas. Question your habits, question the industry, save money.
What are your tips to save gas? Share them here!