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Four Gas Saving Tips You’ll Ignore, Five You Won’t

Posted By Jim On 10/09/2007 @ 10:02 am In Cars | 13 Comments

The one thing I don’t really like about typical gas saving tip posts is that they give you great tips that you’ll absolutely never use. There. I said it. Those are great tips that you will absolutely, without a doubt, 100%, take no prisoners, ignore until you’re blue in the face. You ignore them because you basically don’t like the tips. Let me get into the four tips you’ll ignore, tell you why I think you (and I) ignore them, then I’ll follow that up with some tips I think you won’t ignore (and that I don’t, mostly because they’re easy).

Drive 55 MPH

This tip is by far the one that you’ll probably ignore the most because we all like to get where we’re going as quickly as possible. In fact, despite all the studies showing that driving slowly will increase fuel efficiency, the bottom line is that when the Feds forced the 55 MPH speed limit because of the 1973 oil crisis, oil consumption dropped only 1% [3]. You are most likely to ignore this rule because after the max speed law was repealed, most highways use 65 MPH as their limit and most highways generally operate around anywhere between 70 MPH and 80 MPH; going any slower actually puts you at risk as aggressive drivers start weaving around you.

Carpool

Carpooling obviously saves on gasoline because you use less of it. Carpool exactly one work day a week and, like magic, you’ll reduce your gas consumption! It’s absolutely brilliant in its simplicity until you actually try to carpool and find out no one lives near you and has the same schedule as you. I lived with a roommate for two years, we carpooled fewer than five times; it’s not that we hate the Earth (I recycle, I try to conserve gas like everyone else) but we had different schedules and coordination was a pain. Sometimes I had to work late, sometimes he had to work late, sometimes I had to come in early, etc. At under $3/gallon for gasoline, carpooling’s PITA factor outweighs the cost savings. I still try to carpool when its convenient, trading beers for rides into Baltimore, but the day to day thing simply doesn’t work well.

Reduce Weight In Trunk

I’ve heard this tip over and over again and some people even advise that you take the spare out of your trunk to save on fuel! Again, a great tip if you have cinder blocks in your trunk but generally I don’t think I have more than 10 pounds of “stuff” in my trunk (not counting the spare, which is staying in there no matter what). This tip is great in principle but fails in practice because I think most people have a reason for the stuff in their car’s trunk. Even the people with tons of junk in their trunk have a good reason for it and often won’t have it filled with stuff that’s both unnecessary and unbelievably heavy.

Buy A Smaller Car

Great tip… except you already have a car. It’s a great tip on paper, buy a smaller car and you will use less gasoline both today and in the future. It ignores one important fact though: it’s hard to sell a car and then buy a new one. In fact, buying a car is regarded as one of the more stressful decision processes a human being can enter into (second to probably buying a house and getting married, this is of course a statistic I made up but you’ll probably agree with me) and it’s not something that happens trivially. If you could swap your gas guzzler for a svelte gas sipper I’m sure you would, but it’s not as simple as that. This is like suggesting you trade in your wife or husband to someone more attentive or more attractive. Seems good on paper until you try to do it. This is probably the most ridiculous tip.

Tips You’ll Use

Now that you’ve heard the four tips that I think are good but most often ignored, here are five tips that are simple and something you’ll actually do:

  1. Scan GasBuddy [4] Before Fillup: You can probably get to a computer before you hop into your car to fill up the tank on your way to or from work, so jump onto GasBuddy (or your gas station search of choice) and find the one along your route that has the cheapest gas.
  2. Use the correct octane: If your car says that you should use premium, use premium. If your car says regular and you’re using premium, you’re wasting your money.
  3. Ensure your tires are properly inflated: The statistics vary but it’s estimated you can lose ~6% fuel efficiency if your tires are under inflated plus they have a reduced life because of uneven wear. Keep your tires inflated and drive 155 MPH and you’ll still come out on top.
  4. Change your oil regularly: This is an easy step that keeps your engine operating at peak performance, keeping all part lubricated and all the junk out of your oil. Only do so at the schedule in your manual, ignore that 3,000 mile garbage (unless your manual says so).
  5. Change your air filter: This is another one of those simple maintenance tasks that will save you up to ~10% fuel efficiency. If your engine is starving for air because your filter looks like Snoop Dogg’s lungs then you’re wasting a lot of money for no good reason.

(Photo: chego101 [5])


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[3] oil consumption dropped only 1%: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Maximum_Speed_Law#Actual_conservation_and_economic_effects

[4] GasBuddy: http://www.gasbuddy.com/

[5] chego101: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chego101/3389452476/sizes/m/

Thank you for reading!