We’ve all read the top 10 lists on how we can conserve our gasoline and drive a few extra stops before our tank runs empty. These stories are particularly popular given the consistent rising price at the pumps. But here’s a question: how many of these ‘gas saving tips’ actually help reduce fuel consumption? With that in mind, here are the…
Top Ways How NOT to Save Money on Fuel
1. Removing your spare tire in hopes fuel consumption will decrease is a bad idea. Although weight is a factor in fuel consumption, you may need your 15lb spare tire more than the extra 3 miles you’d get from not carrying it. Shedding extra pounds has marginal impact on fuel consumption. Dumping your friends on the side of the road because you don’t want to drive an extra 500 pounds in a full car may be a smart thing to do in principal, but alas, car pooling isn’t that uncool (see #13).
2. Placing your care into neutral while waiting at a stop does not affect fuel consumption. Coasting down hills in neutral has limited impact as well.
3. Letting your car idle. Stopping for more than 20 seconds? Some say shut the engine off. Heck, hybrids shut the engine off if you’re going slow enough. For most, re-starting does not consume more gas than idling for a minute. However, you may not want to do this in heavy traffic situations as multiple starts and shutdowns wears down other parts of the car as well (gas is not the only thing to worry about.)
4. Roll up the windows and shut off the A/C. Although heavy use of the A/C consumes more energy and drag does impact overall performance especially at higher speeds, both have tested inconclusive over test periods. In the least, you can pick one or the other and rest assured you’re not losing either way (or rather, you’re losing equally).
5. Purchasing fuel injectors or fuel additives to lengthen/improve performance and slow gas consumption. If you could by something off the street that legitimately increased your fuel consumption it would probably already be in the fuel. Having said that….
6. Purchasing fuel from el-cheapo gas station. Every city has a few, the no-name gas stations that routinely pit their prices 3-7 cents lower than the competition. There’s a reason for this and it’s not name brand. Many additives within the fuel are missing–hence the lower cost. You’re actually burning fuel faster with poorer quality fuel. (Go ahead and test this one to confirm.)
7. Avoiding routine maintenance on your vehicle is probably the second worst thing you could do for overall fuel consumption. Keep your tires at the proper PSI value at all times; maintain a clean air filter (consult the manual on change frequency); change the oil regularly; complete other routine maintenance.
8. People have noted that the number one reason to save fuel consumption is by controlling your accelerations and top speeds. Switching gears too soon or accelerating too slow may consume more gas, (but again, only marginally, unless you’re racing). Driving 10% faster at any given speed typically consumes 10% more gas….
Remember, your engine has a ‘happy medium’, too slow and you’re lugging your engine (in manual transmissions). Lugging is sure-way to a) put extra wear on your transmission/engine, b) make your engine work harder thereby burning more fuel. All manual cars have a ‘happy zone’ where you should change your gears. Consult the car manual for numbers, however, remember they typically under-estimate recommended gear change speeds. A good way to determine what is an ‘optimal’ RPM range to change gears is to switch around half of red line. For most this sound like you’re about to explode the engine. Fear not, you’re just not used to hearing your engine purr in delight. Trouble for your engine is at red line (let’s say 7.5 x 1000 RPM), switching gears at around 3.5 x 1000 means your car is happy, anything less is lugging. You’re not a lugger are you?
9. Having said that piece on lugging your engine, you need to find the happy medium. Stunting/racing/exceeding the speed limit consume more gas. Hard accelerations from stop to go (usually to impress fellow female drivers) consumes more gas than controlled acceleration. Control driving habits, stay within optimal ranges for switching gears (manual transmissions) and you’ll discover more efficiency.
10. Buying cool stickers or rear spoilers for your Chevy or Sunfire do more harm to the environment and general population than good. You should take the bus.
11. Drinking bottled water. Just threw this in for all North Americans who drink bottled water, more damaging to the environment than all the cows in the world and their flatulence combined.
12. Turning down the stereo has an unmeasurable impact on gas consumption. If you’re sporting 15″ twin subs in your trunk that operate at full volume for your 1 hour commute to work then yes, you may experience marginal increases in fuel consumption. Regular radios take very little energy that you can operate them with the car off for hours and still have enough juice to start.
13. And finally, it does take more energy to carry an extra half ton, however, 5 friends in the car means 4 less cars on the road (assuming they all drive and don’t fall into #10). Your fuel consumption will be less if you only drive once a week to work and ride with friends the other 4. Get more tips from the FTC.
So there you have it, some practical earth saving tips on how NOT to save money on gas. The days of cheap gas are purportedly over so why not fall in line and stop drinking bottled water and forgetting to change your oil?