Ten Steps to Better Gas Mileage
I hear a lot of griping these days about the price of gas, often accompanied by insistence that our leaders should “do something” about the problem. Since it’s our leaders who got us into this situation in the first place, that’s a hell of a thing to expect them to do. The oil companies should just return their earnings and the politicians who have accepted millions in oil company money should just give it back? I don’t think so. The salad days are over, the post World War Two unparallelled boom of oil wealth, cheap gas, and store shelves full of cheap food and goods is coming to a close. I mean really, how long did people think that cutting taxes, unlimited government/consumer credit, and unlimited government/consumer spending could last? Not to mention the upward transfer of wealth that has been a hallmark of the USA since the Bush/Reagan administration?
Fortunately, here at Doug’s Darkworld, something is being done. Yes, there is something that can be done about gasoline that costs almost as much per gallon as Perrier. In fact a lot of things that can be done, some passive and some active. And they all involve doing it ourselves instead of whining for the government to bail us out. Our grandparents (or great grandparents for the whippersnappers) managed to have good lives without cheap gas and cheap goods. They did it by being careful and frugal. Granted this is going to be a tough transition for those who think a swipe of a credit card painlessly solves all of life’s problem’s and meets all of our needs. Americans were once a tough proud people, we can do it again if we have to.
And in that spirit, here is how to use less gas. Some of these methods are passive, some of them require changing habits, all of them added up can yield significant increases in fuel economy. The only codicil here is use common sense, I’m not suggesting turning off your engine while in traffic or anything like that, and some of these suggestions will involve a mechanic if one isn’t a big do-it-yourselfer. Some of them may not be appropriate to every vehicle, again, use common sense. Here, gleaned from hypermilers and other sources, is how to stretch the gas dollar:
- Keep the vehicle tuned and in good running condition. Of course people should be doing this anyhow since a car is a major investment and keeping it in good running order will extend its lifetime geatly, now there’s even more reason to stop putting off that tune up.
- Inflate the tires to the maximum or even a few pounds beyond. A bumpier ride is a small price to pay for a significant increase in mileage.
- Idling is deadly. The single largest factor that lowers gas mileage is running the engine while the car is stationery…getting zero mpg lowers average mileage very fast. And this is just a matter of leaning new habits. Don’t turn the car on until everyone is buckled in, traffic is clear, and it’s safe to proceed. Turn the car off the second it is safely parked and stopped. Park the car and walk into MacDonald’s instead of sitting in the drive thru line. Etc.
- Weight is bad. Every extra pound carted around hurts mileage. Don’t carry around a bunch of junk in the trunk or back seat. Pull out the floor mats. Leave the spare windshield washer fluid in the garage, not the trunk. Remove roof racks or roof cargo carriers. In older cars, if one can live without an air conditioner, it may be possible to have a mechanic remove the air conditioning system. Go on a diet.
- Speed kills…mileage. Most cars get their best mileage right after they shift into high gear, typically around 40-50 mph. So drive as slow as is safely possible on the freeway and significant gas savings will result.
- Run the vehicle on the lowest viscosity oil it can safely use, and keep the oil level near the bottom of the normal range.
- Drive carefully. Every time the brake or gas pedal is hit unnecessarily hurts mileage. Look ahead and ease off on the throttle if a light or stop sign is coming up. Coast wherever safely possible. (Do not turn the engine off and coast in traffic.) Easy does it basically.
- Use regular fuel if at all possible, most modern cars run just fine on it. If there is no engine ping while using regular and your car manual says you can use regular…use regular.
- Some vehicles have a power setting switch, a Lexus I drive does for example. In one position the car has more power, in the other it gets better mileage. If one has always wondered what some switch or setting does on the dashboard, now is the time to get out the manual and figure it out. In the same vein, some cars actually display the current mpg on the dash, pay attention to it.
- And lastly, drive less. Car pool. Get a bicycle. Do all of the errands in one fell swoop instead of several trips.
I know, some of these are pretty obvious, but for the sake of completeness I wanted to cover all the bases. And by the way, I know a lot of people are using this situation to blame the liberals…but let’s be real. It was the Reagan administration that gutted efforts to mandate fuel economy standards and cancelled other initiatives to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, not the liberals. Sheesh.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and it is central to illustrating the post. I have no clue who to attribute it to, if anyone knows I will properly credit it. “President Bush said I wish I could wave a magic wand and lower gas prices. And then he said I wish I could wave a magic wand and bring the troops home. And he said I wish I could wave a magic wand and fix health care. And I was thinking this guy waves his wand more than Clinton.” –David Letterman That bon mot and others can be read here. Drive safe everyone.)