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Save Money on Gas: How I Increased My Gas Mileage by almost 26%

Woman Pumping Gas

Getting Better Gas Mileage - The Actual Process


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1) I started by setting my car's mode to display my real-time miles per gallon. Since I always noted and calculated my gas mileage when I filled up my tank, I had paid little attention to this cool gauge on my car. Now I began to watch it so I could instantly see the gas mileage effect of my driving actions. I don't know how many cars have this feature, but my understanding is that most newer cars have some sort of a built in gas mileage calculator. There are devices that you can purchase and install in your car to get the readings, but this article is about increasing your gas mileage without spending money. You can still use the tips in the rest of this article, even if you don't have a mileage calculator in your vehicle.

While watching the display, I could see that when I was accelerating from a full stop, that my gas mileage was often as low as 3 mpg. Ouch! I also got a thrill from seeing the maximim 99.9 miles per gallons displayed when I was coasting without my foot on the gas pedal.

Watching the numbers and using the instant feedback to adjust my acceleration was both valuable and fascinating. For example, making a very slight adjustment when accelerating from a stop light, I could change my mpg (miles per gallon) from 3-4 to 12-13, with little change in the perceived rate of acceleration. More detail on that follows.

2) I began to slow down as soon as I saw an approaching red (or yellow) light or a stop sign. I soon became pretty skilled at judging what at what point to release pressure on the accelerator and at what point I could simply take my foot off the accelerator and let the car coast until I needed to smoothly brake. I also had to be keenly aware of the cars behind me. A car following close behind me needed the warning of my brake lights that I was slowing down, but that did not necessarily mean that I had to apply full pressure to the brakes. Often I could touch the brake for a moment until the car behind me backed off and then continue on safely with slowing or even coasting. I thought at first that cars behind me would be a big issue, but soon found that far more often than not, I either did not have cars behind me as I slowed, or that they were actually quite far behind me and were also slowing down for the stop light. I also have the advantage that a large part of my drive to work is in a moderately traveled four-lane road, so a speed-demon-gas-guzzler could simply switch to the fast lane if I was not driving fast enough for them. Again, I was surprised at how infrequently this was necessary.

(Note: My car has an automatic transmission. There are different safety and clutch-wear considerations for coasting in a car with manual transmission so this tip may need to be adjusted for those with manual transmissions).

3) This tip is closely related to #2, but different enough to list as a separate tip: As often as possible, in fact, I try to make it happen every time, have a time lasp between taking your foot off the accelerator and putting your foot on the brake. This has had a powerful effect on my gas mileage and on my driving skills altogether. This skill requires me to be very alert to what's ahead of me on the road as well as the speed and distant of the cars behind me. If I see a slow car on the road ahead, I immediately slow down (tapping the brakes to alert the car behind me if necessary). I don't wait until I'm right behind the slow car and brake hard to slow to his speed. I first let off the accelerator, either partially or altogether, to see if I can be adjusted safely down to his speed by the time I reach him. I also watch for cars that might pull out in front of me, rough spots or obstacles ahead on the road, sharp curves in the road, anything that might create a need for me to react in some way with the gas pedal or brakes. I often find that I don't even need to brake if I can adjust my acceleration soon enough. Again, this requires me to be aware of the car behind me, but think of it: which is safer in relation to cars behind me: braking hard and suddenly as I approach a slow moving car or obstacle, or beginning to slow down with control (and a possible brake-light-activating tap) as soon as I realize that a speed adjustment is going to be necessary?

4) At the risk of sounding redundant, #4 is also related to #2 and #3, but important enough to deserve it's own listing: consider your brakes the enemy as far as gas mileage is concerned. Hitting the brakes means that you car will have to lose all that gas-efficient momentum and then use extra gas to regain the momemtum and get you back to the speed you were before you braked.

How does this translate? First, leave enough room between yourself and the car in front of you so that you don't have to punch the brakes every time he slows or brakes. Second, consider testing the effects of your gas mileage with different routes that require less stopping, starting, and turning. Third, learn to time your city's traffic lights so that you have a good idea of what speed to stay at so that you don't accelerate to each light, only to have to brake to a stop until the light changes. As you practice this, you will also have a little chuckle at how often you will catch up at a traffic light to a speed-demon car that zoomed past you further back on the road and is now stopped at the red light.

5) Use the cruise control. I learned to use the cruise control whenever I had an open stretch of road, even just a 1/4 mile, and even on roads that were at slower speed limits. With the cruise control, I can set it at the speed limit, and then using my mileage calculator display could tweak my speed up or down a bit until the display shows the best mileage rate. I often cruise at 39 mpg, which seems to occur at speeds of around 45-46 mph in my car.

I had not used my cruise control too much, except for interstate driving, because I had the thought that it was somehow not safe. I've learned that for me it is actually much safer. With the cruise control set, I don't mindlessly find myself going 10 mph over the speed limit. I watch the cars around me to be sure that my speed is compatible with the flow of traffic. My foot is ready for the brake or accelerator at any time, just by habit, no stress.

I have also saved myself a stress attack (who knows, even a ticket) when I've driven past a sheriff's speed trap, by knowing that I am going within the speed limit because my trusty cruise control is set to keep me there.

6) Drive a little slower. As I noted while using the cruise control, often just easing up on the gas by 1-2 mph made a 4 -5 mpg difference in the mileage. At even greater speeds, such as interstate driving, the difference was very noticeable. For example, I might register 23-24 mpg at 75 mph and 29-30 mpg at 68 mph. Notice also that I found that my car gets the best mileage in the 43-55 mph range. So I can use that information when I have the choice of routes that might have different speed limits.

Note: Consumer Reports (April 2011) tested a Toyota Camry and showed that fuel economy dropped 5 mpg from 55 to 65 mph and another 5 mpg from 65 to 75. So in their testing, you would lose 10 mpg by increasing your speed from 55 to 75 mph. Another good reason to drive within the 55 mph speed limit on non-interstate roads.

7) Leave 5 -10 minutes earlier for your destination. Allowing a few minutes of extra time relieves any presssure of trying to go just a little faster, accelerate a little harder, and all those stressful, gas-guzzling habits we acquire when we feel that we are going to be late getting somewhere. You'll be more likely to coast instead of brake, accelerate slowly after a stop, and allow the cars in front of you a little extra breathing space.

8) Avoid jack-rabbit starts after a stop. During heavy acceleration from a full stop, my car gets about 1 - 3 mpg. Even a moderately heavy acceleration reads 7-10 mpg. I try to accelerate with smooth, quick, level speed and keep the gauge no lower than 12 mpg. Again, I thought that I'd have impatient cars tailing close on my bumper if I consistently did this, but I have found that even with my moderate acceleration, I rarely have any cars that seem bothered by my acceleration rate. Sometimes the cars even lag far behind. I suppose that means that I'd be labeled the speed demon at that moment.

Note: Consumer Reports (March 2011) reported that frequent bursts of acceleration and braking reduced gas mileage by 2 to 3 mpg on a tested Toyota Camry.

9) Check the tire inflation and keep the tires properly inflated. During my driving habit adjustments, I remembered that properly inflated tires can help improve gas mileage. I don't recall all of the details for this one. I do remember that my tires were surprisingly lower than the recommended pressure and I put more air in them. My car drove a lot smoother and handled a little better after I filled all the tires. The gas mileage seemed a little improved, but since the results were co-mingled with the other adjustments I was making, I cannot give any hard numbers on the effect of changing the air pressure in the tires.

Note: Consumer Reports (April 2011) tested a 1.3 mpg loss when tires were underinflated by 10 psi.

Additional note: When researching the Michelin Tire website to see how much pressure should be in my tires, they noted that the pressure marked on the sides of the tires was simply a maximum and that you should always inflate your tires according to your vehicle's owner's manual or on the decal on the doorpost. Michelin also said that for every 7 psi below the correct pressure on your tires, gas mileage efficiency drops by 1%.

 

With all these methods combined, I increased my gas mileage from 19 mpg to 24 mpg, a savings of 26%. I now drive about 10,000 miles a year. At $4.00 a gallon, that is a savings of $438.60 a year. Even if prices drop back to $2.99 a gallon, I will still be saving $327.85 a year. The effort is well worth the savings, especially since I enjoy it.

I hope that you are able to use at least one or two of these tips to greatly increase your own gas mileage. The savings can be substantial and the process is actually fun. Now that's The Fat Dollar way.

 

Other resources:

The site mpgbuddy.com will display your specific vehicle's expected miles per gallon when you enter in the year, make, and model.

Michelin Tire Company

Consumer Reports -Gas Saving Tips

 

Article by Patti Tokar Canton Copyright 2011 - All Rights Reserved. Do Not Duplicate Without Permission

Watch for TheFat Dollar upcoming article on other ways to save money on gas.

 

 

 

Article by Patti Tokar Canton

 


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