Back in the good old days when gas prices maxed out around $1 per gallon, it was easy to shrug off advice like “drive the speed limit” and “plan errands so you make one trip instead of multiple ones" as urban legend. But as gas prices have climbed and climbed this past decade, many of us are a little more alert for tips on how to improve our fuel economy.
And as we head into the summer driving season - a.k.a. "Let's Raise Prices Before Everyone Goes on Vacation!" Season - we're here to tell you that you can save gas just by changing your driving habits and keeping your car well maintained. And for those of us in Green Bay who own large trucks and SUVs and tow boats and other equipment, the potential savings are even greater.
Ready to start saving? Here we go…
Tip #1: A/C vs. Windows Down: It depends. For years, we were told to roll the windows down instead of running the A/C on hot days. Because the engine powers the A/C, many experts believe the extra load on the engine requires more fuel. But more recent research seems to indicate that: It depends on what speed you're traveling. At lower speeds, it's better to go with windows down. At higher speeds, though, A/C is better because it doesn't increase the vehicle's drag the way open windows do.
Tip #2: Accelerate evenly. Don’t drive like a Hollywood star in the midst of a car chase. While it might be the more boring way to go, you’ll also save fuel by not dodging and weaving through traffic, avoiding avoiding sudden stops and starts, and using cruise control.
Tip #3: Don’t be a drag. On a similar note, do whatever you can to reduce your car’s wind resistance, such as removing luggage racks, bike racks, ski racks, etc.
Tip #4: Don’t idle excessively. Turn off the engine if you’re going to be sitting for more than 1 minute. When you sit idling, you’re getting 0 mpg. While starting your car uses a burst of fuel, it uses less than excess idling.
Tip #5: Engage in a little spring cleaning. You can save 0.6 to 1.1 mpg by unloading excess weight from the vehicle. This includes everything from sports gear, tools and equipment to books you’ve been meaning to donate, work-related paraphernalia and even the third rear seat that’s never used.
Tip#6: Shift earlier. If you drive an automatic with “overdrive,” make sure you use it. If you drive a manual transmission, shift into the higher gears as soon as you can and stay there as soon as its practical. In a lower gear, your engine is turning faster than the wheels. In fourth gear, though, the engine turns one revolution for every rotation of the wheels. In overdrive, fifth or sixth gears, the wheels are actually turning faster than the engine, which improves its efficiency and your fuel economy.
Tip #7: Beware of snake oil. Generally speaking, you’ll rarely benefit from any fuel additive or other products that claim to save your gas or improve your fuel economy. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission says most are bogus and that the savings are small on the few products that have been proven to work.
Tip #8: Don’t buy premium when 87 octane will do. Most vehicles on the road are engineered to run on 87 octane fuel. If your car is one of them, don’t spend extra money on premium. It’s simply throwing your money away. However, if your vehicle is engineered for premium fuel, your owner's manual will say specifically that the vehicle requires mid-grade or premium. In those cases, adhere to your manual, but note the distinction between "recommend" and "requires."
And remember, preventive maintenance can be a key to improving fuel economy, too. As we head into summer, remember the friendly faces at Auto Select are here to help! You can schedule an appointment online for any of your summer travel preparation needs or call one of our nine Auto Select car and truck repair locations in Appleton, Green Bay, Stevens Point and Weston (Wausau).