Real Gas Saving Tips
(Not for the faint of heart
but tips that don’t include buying a new car)
1. No Cost
- Don’t start
the vehicle until AFTER you’ve fastened seat belts, found your sunglasses,
adjusted the seat and mirrors, etc.
Don’t “warm up” a vehicle for more than 30 seconds. 30 seconds is more than enough time for
the oil pressure and electrical systems to stabilize in a normally
- Pump up
your tires to at least what’s recommended by the owner’s manual (also on a
pillar tag inside the driver’s side door).
This decreases rolling resistance of the tires. For better performance, inflate tires to
2 or 3 pounds more than listed. I.e., put an extra 3 or 4 pounds in the
front tires (where the weight is), and an extra 1 or 2 in the rear tires. No more than that. If you own an SUV your tire pressure for
the truck/off road tires it came equipped with is likely purposely rated
low in order to provide better off-road performance. However, that low
tire pressure will rob you of on-road performance
and fuel efficiency. Check tire pressure
at least monthly. Never exceed the “max pressure” listed on the sidewall
of the tires.
your vehicle of all unnecessary luggage, tools,
toys, last winters sandbags and other dead weight. Be particularly wary of
any excess weight placed above or behind the rear axle.
the spare tire and jack with 2 cans of “fix-a-flat” (compressed air with sealer)
and a “plug” kit. Removing that 70 to 100+ pounds from its place above/behind the
rear axle will be felt immediately with gains in performance and fuel
economy. Do this only if you’re
comfortable with the risk of not having the spare at hand. Ask yourself if you’d normally call someone (AAA,
spouse, tow truck) to fix you up or get you home in the event of a flat
tire. Fix-a-flat works on pretty much anything but a side-wall puncture
but is always to be considered temporary. It’s very easy to use and will
get you home and/or to a tire shop. A plug kit is a semi-permanent fix but is
more difficult to use with the tire on the vehicle. After installing a plug you’ll still
need to inflate the tire with the fix-a-flat. Note: During the winter, on the days that
roads are icy/snowy (and only on those particular days), consider
placing one or two small (40/50 lb) sandbags in the rear of the vehicle
for added traction. If ever stuck,
the bags can be opened and sand placed on the pavement to get you moving
again. Remove the bags ASAP when the roads clear or fuel mileage will
higher octane gas. Too much to
write about, but here’s the very short version. Your owner’s manual will state the MINIMUM
octane requirement for your vehicle based on compression ratio and
other design parameters of the drive train. Higher octane fuel will NOT
harm your vehicle. But, using too low
an octane fuel (below manufacturers
recommendation) is a self inflicted wound.
“But, my engine doesn’t knock when I use cheap gas”……Even using the
cheapest gas, today’s engines won’t knock due to the engine management
system (EMS / on-board computer) retarding engine timing to correct for it
long before you’ll ever hear the sound. Retarded timing reduces power and
gas-mileage significantly. Also,
have you noticed that although the price of gas goes up, the difference in
price between grades of gas remains fairly constant. So, at today’s prices, pay the 6% more
for gas (going from 85 regular to 87 mid-grade -
or – from 87 to 91 if your owners manual recommends premium gas) and enjoy
8% to 10% better gas mileage. And,
as gas prices continue to rise while the difference in price between
grades doesn’t - the percentage of cost difference between the grades
actually goes down thereby increasing the money saving advantage of using
higher octane to you. Note: if you ever hear your engine knock
– or - if you see no change in mileage after going up an octane grade, your
EMS system is probably broken. Most likely a bad sensor (knock sensor
for knocking noise, and oxygen (O2) sensor if your fuel mileage doesn’t
change noticeably - or at all). Check
your owners manual for recommended octane level,
then experiment. After you prove
the impact of going from regular to mid-grade, try going from mid-grade to
premium. Check the percentage of
cost difference to percent of mileage increase and use what’s best for
your vehicle and what provides you the most bang for the buck (no cost
because you actually make money doing this). Note:
For many V8s the best result may come from a 50/50 mix of 87 and 91
octane fuel (effectively 89 octane).
- Do the
math! Check your fuel mileage
regularly. Fuel mileage is an
excellent indicator of your vehicles health. Establish a norm and should mileage drop
significantly for no apparent reason have the engine checked or tuned. Note: a bad O2 senor will NOT cause your check
engine light to come on. Big note:
In Colorado, when fuel is switched (by law) in November to the
winter ethanol blend expect a 10 to 15 percent drop in fuel economy and
expect engine performance to suffer - even to the point of it stalling at
stop lights or having the check engine light flicker or illuminate. The quick fix is to go to the next
higher grade of gas (i.e., 87 to 91 or mix the two) until mid February
when the summer blend is reintroduced. See above. The percent of mileage increase will more
than offset the percent of increased cost and you’ll notice the improved
performance. Also note that the price per gallon drops a bit in November
because the higher ethanol content makes it cheaper.
the AC as sparingly as possible in town or, better yet, not at all. Today’s AC compressors offer less drag
on the engine than the older ones, but nothing is free. However, on the highway you’re generally
better off using the AC in most cases because closed windows greatly decrease
air drag on the vehicle at highway speeds.
the engine air filter as scheduled (no cost because this should be done
your car tuned up by a professional (no cost because this should be done
at the scheduled interval – but is forgotten these days because the
interval is so long). While there,
ask if there are any recalls on your vehicle.
early. Don’t be in a hurry. Drive
less aggressively (hard acceleration + heavy braking). Stay in the right
lane so you don’t impede faster traffic.
Note for the hard core: When traveling long distances on the highway,
slowing down too much may NOT save fuel!!
Every engine has its own point (RPM) where it operates most efficiently
(produces the most power on the least amount of fuel) IAW its displacement, transmission
gearing, cam profile and valve train characteristics. For most street engines that point should be
between 1500 and 3000 RPMs. You can
experiment when driving at highway speed by watching your speedometer and tach to see where the RPMs are while at highway speeds. It
takes time and patience to get the feel of the vehicle and check gas mileage
over time. A dyno
test of your vehicle will tell you quickly what you (the hard core) may want to
know for about 80 dollars. You’ll see, on an X-Y plot, speed in miles per hour,
RPM and a tailpipe emissions readout, under load, across the operating range of
your vehicle. Look for the RPM point
where the engine is running at its cleanest (lowest emissions). And, no, a dyno
will not hurt your vehicle. It’s no more
stressful on the vehicle than accelerating up a steep hill.
2. Low Cost
your current paper element air filter (right now today) with a high
performance, K&N reusable air filter (Round figures: about $45.00
vs the $10.00 for a paper/disposable one). At today’s gas prices it will pay for
itself in about 3 or 4 months but will keep working for years thereby
making you money. Clean it as needed – usually every 12 to 24 months
depending on mileage driven and environment.
(at least every 24 mths) replace the “cabin air
filter” in your vehicle. If you
regularly use your air conditioner while driving, a restricted filter will
significantly reduce air flow over the evaporator. The end result being that your AC
compressor will be engaged and place a load on the engine for a longer
period of time in order to achieve the same cabin air temperature
drop. Cabin air filters are
relatively expensive for what you get.
Suggest you call a number of auto parts stores AND the dealer to
compare prices. Filter is normally
accessed by dropping the glove box door forward.
- Buy a
good tire gauge and use it monthly.
Check your tires in the morning when it’s cool or at least before
you’ve driven the vehicle.
- Buy a
good tire inflator/air pump that you can plug into your cars cigarette
lighter (about $30.00 at Sears).
You’ll be more likely to maintain good tire pressure on ALL of your
vehicles if you can check and top off the tires at home at your
convenience. (Don’t trust the
pressure gauge that’s built into most of these. See above.) Note:
you can also put this in the trunk with the fix-a-flat if you
like. But if two cans of fix-a-flat
don’t get you up and running, the tire pump won’t help.
- If you
own an SUV or pick-up that never sees a dirt road or trail, replace your
tires (when it’s time) with a good quality all-season radial car
tire vs buying a light truck or off road
tire. Car tires have less
aggressive thread and therefore offer less rolling resistance (decreased
drag = better fuel mileage), are quieter and many offer a mileage
guarantee that, because you’re putting them on a heavier vehicle, you’ll
be able to take advantage of when you replace them later. You therefore save money in two ways. Note:
Light truck tires generally wear out quickly and do not have
a cold air induction system to your vehicle. Yes, you can do this yourself. Most newer vehicles come with one. So, check first before you purchase
the muffler. Own a pick up truck or sports car that you’d like to sound
good and get better mileage? Remove
the muffler. Do not remove the
Catalytic Converter - that’s against the law. Have the local muffler shop replace the
muffler with a length of pipe (about 50 bucks). This will remove significant restriction
from the exhaust system which improves fuel efficiency and mileage. The catalytic converter will act as a
resonator and give the vehicle a pretty mellow exhaust note and generally
keep you from getting pulled over for noise pollution. Note: this trick
works best with V-8 engines.
or buy an Engine Code Reader. Good
code readers are available at most auto parts stores from 80 to 120
dollars. The tech at the store will
show you where to plug it in (under the drivers side dashboard), read the
codes and clear them using this device.
A code reader is cheaper than a trip to the mechanic to turn off
the check engine light for a loose gas cap or a sticky PCV valve. However, if the engine is in real need
of service the light will reappear quickly. Note: many auto parts stores (Checker Auto
Parts is one) offer a free service whereby they’ll plug in their loner and
read the code – tell you what’s wrong, advise on the fix and (if possible)
reset the check engine light for you.
Call your nearest parts store and ask.
needed maintenance. If the
“check engine” light stays on – don’t ignore it - have the car checked by
a professional (see above first).
Hint: While there, ask if there are any recalls on your vehicle.
Note: 2 very likely causes for the check engine
light to illuminate are a loose gas cap and a dirty or stuck PCV valve. Both of these can be fixed by you. (1) Close your gas cap tightly every
time. (2) The PCV is easy to locate
under the hood by looking at the emissions hose routing sticker attached to
your hood. Find it, take it out, and
spray it with carburetor cleaner ($1.95) until the ball inside can be heard
rattling freely. Reinstall the
valve. If the check engine light doesn’t
go out by itself it might be “latched” on and require resetting with a code
reader or there may be something else wrong with the engine. If it won’t go off after performing the two
items above – take the vehicle to a professional.
your automatic transmission (Fluid change or total flush). If you haven’t at least had a fluid
change or refresh in the last 3 years (regardless of miles) your tranny is
very likely slipping somewhat (especially in stop and go traffic). Slipping equals excessive heat and loss
of fuel economy. Excessive heat
also equals early trans failure.
Note: Check your owner’s
manual. Servicing the tranny is
scheduled maintenance that many forget or ignore. Also note: you can change or refresh
your own fluid by purchasing a good hand pump for under $75.00 (under 30
for a cheap one) and pulling the fluid out (and replacing the exact
amount taken out) through the dipstick tube. The first time you do this $250.00(+)
service yourself the pump will more than have paid for itself. Note:
I recommend having the dealer do the first service on a new vehicle
so that the bottom of the tranny pan can be checked for debris. They’ll tell you if there are signs of
failure or self destruction.
FYI: Tranny filters are
actually very course “strainers” vs “filters.”
They don’t really capture and hold stuff.
That’s why it’s pretty safe to refresh your own fluid via the hand
pump method. If you want to see
what your tranny strainer looks like in order to verify this, simply go to
any auto parts store and ask for one (giving your cars year, make, model
and engine info). Look, see,
know. You don’t have to buy it.