It’s the rare person not looking for a way to trim that fuel expenditure these days – it seems like there’s no end in sight for the upward-spiraling budget line item of fuel cost. However, there’s a handful of easy ways that can help you make the most of each tankful. Take five now to read these seven tips, and we bet following even just a few of 'em will save you enough to occasionally splurge on your favorite coffee house caffeine-boost.
- Pop the Hood & Eyeball that Air Filter – and maybe even change it. This is one of those oft-overlooked maintenance items that may seem like more work than it really is. Yes, less than five minutes of your time can keep $15 or more in your pocket annually. By keeping your air filter clean, your vehicle will be spunkier to drive and less thirsty for fuel. A dirty air filter not only leads to reduced fuel efficiency and reduced power, it makes the engine work harder. And yes, increased emissions mean you’re contributing more than necessary to global warming. Here’s how to check it: Remove filter from the housing and shine a 100-watt trouble light through it. If the light doesn’t shine through, it’s time to change it. And don’t forget to bone up on total car maintenance no matter what your fuel of choice.
- Check that Tire Pressure – Take a walk around your car and look at the tires at least once every two weeks. If a tire is excessively low, you can see the squat in the sidewall. Driving on low pressure is not only inefficient, it can also be dangerous. Pick up an inexpensive stick-type tire pressure gauge (only a few bucks) and check the pressure monthly. Even if you don’t have an air compressor in your garage, it only takes five to pull in to the service station or car wash to make sure all tires are at optimum pressure. It’s all about reducing the amount of rolling resistance (or drag) the engine must overcome.
- Watch Your Speed – when speed limits were raised from 55 mph to 65 (and even 70 in some states), drivers everywhere cheered. Motor-down and get there faster. But are we really better off? Life has not only speeded up, fuel is being sucked down faster too. Plus, avoidance reaction time decreases significantly at these higher speeds. Hey, we know it’s not cool to go slow like Gramps – that can be dangerous as well - but it is smart to be aware of the fact that each mph affects your car’s fuel economy. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “government data indicates that fuel economy can drop by 17% for modern vehicles that drive at 70 mph instead of 55 mph. Even at 65 mph, fuel economy can drop by nearly 10% compared to driving at 55 mph.”
- Use Cruise – Maintaining a steady highway speed is paramount to achieving optimal fuel mileage. Once you’ve merged and are settled into your lane on the highway, take advantage of technology and set the cruise control, if your vehicle is so equipped. Not only can you stop watching your speedometer, you can set it a tick under the speed limit and think about other things. You’ll save not only fuel, but also reduce your chance of getting a ticket from Officer Friendly.
- Easy on the Accelerator – Use a light and easy foot when pulling out from stop signs and traffic lights–forget those pedal-to-the-metal and jackrabbit starts—get into the habit of gentle acceleration. It's really a double bonus: not only will you decrease fuel use; your vehicle’s emissions will be less. Try this trick: pretend an egg is between your foot and the accelerator. Depress the pedal gently ... don’t break that egg!
- Get Some Fresh Air – Not only is it better for you, it’s better for the planet. Turning your climate control system off and cracking open that window or sunroof will boost your daily quota of vitamin D, perhaps even blow some much needed oxygen into those oxygen-deprived office lungs of yours. Did you know the engine has to work harder to drive the A/C compressor? And that means it consumes more fuel too.
- Think Twice, Drive Once – Instead of hopping into the car at a moment’s notice, condense trips into one or two errands per week, or consult other family members to see who’s going where, when. You might just save yourself a trip, some much-needed time , a gallon of gasoline, plus twenty pounds of carbon dioxide spewed into the atmosphere. Taking steps to organize your to-do list is a win-win situation for the earth and your pocketbook.
Combine these seven easy tips into your daily, weekly - even monthly routine - and they can have a profound impact on your vehicle’s contribution to your personal carbon footprint. Most of them are just as simple as staying aware and being in the moment ... but those small steps add up over time. Each person’s contribution boasts exponential benefits. Indeed, the power is in each of our hands, literally. Those small steps add up. Big time.