Battle High Gas Prices: Tips to Boost Your Fuel Economy
How to save on gas without getting rid of your car.
By: Steve Siler and Colin Mathews
Thanks to the recent spike in fuel prices, high-mileage vehicles are among the most researched of all new-car purchases. When it comes down to it, the most economical vehicle choice for your family is quite possibly the one that’s already sitting in your driveway. Unless you’re leasing a car that is due to be returned in the next couple of months, you might save as much or more money by simply keeping the car you own and driving it more economically. But how, exactly? We’re not going to recommend any “hypermiling” nonsense, but we do know a few tricks—some you also might know, and others you might not. All, however, enable you to boost your personal fuel economy, squeezing more miles per gallon from whatever you drive, be it a Focus or a Phantom. Although gains from some of the tips below might seem minute, successfully enact all of them, and you’ll be nickel-and-diming Exxon for hundreds of bucks a year.
Tune Up Your Car
Okay, cars don’t really need “tune-ups” in the traditional mechanical sense any more. But if your “check engine” light is on, it could indicate a serious problem—say, a faulty oxygen sensor or worn spark plugs and wires—that, when fixed, could garner fuel-economy gains upwards of 30 percent, according to the EPA and Department of Energy’s shared Web site: www.fueleconomy.com. Be sure to follow your recommended service schedule to keep your car running optimally. Also, if you’re the change-your-own-oil type, the EPA says to be sure you use the right stuff. For example, using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can lower your gas mileage by one to two percent.
Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated
The Department of Energy estimates that 5 to 15 percent of light-duty fuel consumption is spent overcoming rolling resistance, i.e., the friction between the road and a car’s tires. Lowering your vehicle’s rolling resistance starts with simply ensuring that your tires have enough air pressure. Underinflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.4 percent for every 1-psi drop in pressure of all four tires. A typical tire loses 1 psi per month and another with every 10-degree drop in temperature, so if you haven’t checked your tires in a few months, it’s time. Of course, pumping a few extra pounds of air pressure into the tires is one of the oldest fuel-economy tricks around, but going overboard will cost you some ride comfort and lateral grip, and—if taken to the extreme—could result in highly dangerous blowouts.
Make sure that your automobile is up to date on its service schedule.