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How to Get the Most Out of a Gallon

We know how you feel…gas prices are through the roof!  So now, more than ever, it’s important to do everything you can to make sure that you’re getting the most mileage out of every gallon.

Let’s start with some easy “fixes” that you can do by simply changing your driving habits.  Investopedia.com claims that these poor driving habits can affect your fuel economy up to 30%.

First you need to know that speeding, braking and rapidly accelerating can waste gas.  And, along with easing up on those pedals, SLOW DOWN.  Mileage decreases at speeds above 50 mph.

And, lighten up!  For every extra 100 pounds that you carry in your car, you lose up to 1% in fuel efficiency.  Don’t use your vehicle for long-term storage, leave the sports gear, topper, boxes of items for thrift store drop off, etc. at home until you need them. Smaller cars are more affected by this extra weight than bigger vehicles.  But, be sure that you do keep an emergency and first aid kit stored in your vehicle at all times.

Time those traffic lights.  Sudden starting and stopping destroys your mpg (miles per gallon) averages. Try to time red lights by looking far ahead and notice how the traffic lights are performing as compared to the flow and speed of the vehicles on the road.  Additionally, take your foot off the gas and coast to a stop, instead of stomping on the brakes. 

Don’t be idle.  Vehicles that are idling can burn up to one gallon of gas per hour.  It has been suggested that if you plan to be stationary for any extended period of time (some say as few as 30 seconds!), turn off your car. Idling = ZERO miles per gallon!

Use the proper fuel.  You may have noticed that there are different “grades” of fuel at the pump.  There’s the expensive stuff, and the cheaper stuff.  But what does that all mean?  Fuel costs are controlled by the amount of octane found in the gasoline.  Some cars work best on low octane…some like the higher priced fuel…and some are “just right” in the middle.  Check your owner’s manual to see what’s recommended for your vehicle to get the best fuel economy performance you can.

Don’t be a drag.  Items like rooftop storage containers, side mirror extenders and bike racks all create wind resistance which lowers gas mileage.

Seal it up.  Check your gas cap and make sure that it still offers a good seal.  Time, temperature fluctuation and normal every day wear and tear can crack or warp your seal. Gas evaporates quickly; so this is an easy and cheap fix that you can do yourself.

Keep it under control…and by that we mean use your cruise control. Keeping your engine’s RPMs steady is a great way to improve mileage and your cruise control can help with that.  BUT, one thing to know, cruise control can cost you mileage in the mountains.  Cruise control is best used for roads that aren’t hilly.

Keep your cool - or not.  If you open your windows while driving you are creating drag which lessens fuel economy.  If you keep the AC on, you’ll use more horsepower which uses more gas.  What to do? We suggest using your air conditioner while cruising on the highway and opening your windows in town.

Back off.  Driving at proper following distance for the car in front of you will not only keep you safe, it will increase your MPG since you won’t have to constantly be hitting your brakes and accelerating.

You’ve probably heard this before, but it needs to be repeated.  Fill up your car when it’s cool outside. Fuel is denser when it’s cooler – like in the early morning or late evening.  By making this simple change you’ll get more gas for the same amount of money because fuel is sold by volume.

Plan on it.  Make the most out of every trip you have to take.  Use GPS for the shortest or fastest route. Stay on highways as much as makes sense for your trip.  Make several stops: the grocery store, the dry cleaner, the mall; make a plan on where you can go and do it all in one trip.

Now let’s looks at some mechanical things to consider:

Check your tires.  Make sure that your tire pressure is at the correct level.  Trent Pickering of Pickering’s Auto Service tells us that tires can lose air over time.  Pickering adds, “Each tire that is not properly inflated costs you in gas mileage.  It is estimated that a tire that is underinflated by 10 psi (psi stands for pounds per square inch) can reduce the fuel economy by up to 10%.  You can find the proper inflation amount on the door jamb or in your owner’s manual…or just ask us!”

“Additionally, if you need an alignment your tires are not rolling freely and that will cost you in gas mileage, also.  Plus, the extra wear on your tires can cause them to wear out quicker, costing you even more money.”

Pickering says that if your tires are out of balance or need rotated, you’ll notice symptoms like vibration in your steering wheel.

Change your oil.  Your engine oil is the lubricator for all of your car’s moving parts.  Oil also acts as a cleaner.  A clean, smooth-running engine gets better fuel economy. So, it makes good sense to get your oil changed on a regular basis.  And, one more thing about oil; you may want to ask your service technician about synthetic motor oil.  Most people know that this type of oil doesn’t need changed as often, but an added benefit is that it can give you better gas mileage.  Brandon Pickering, co-owner of Pickering’s Auto Service in Lakewood and Arvada, Colorado notes, “Switching to synthetic oil is easy, but it’s not something you should go back and forth on.   If you make the move to synthetic motor oil, ask for synthetic oil every time you get your oil changed.  We use a special additive in every oil change that can help with gas mileage, as well.”

Your air filter could also be causing you to lose fuel economy. When dirty, you are actually choking your car’s engine of the air it needs to operate at peak performance.

Got an older vehicle?  You might need to have the fuel injectors cleaned so that fuel can flow properly.

Bad spark plugs can also reduce fuel efficiency.  If your mileage suddenly drops, it could be because the spark plugs are misfiring and need replacing.

Reducing your driving may be a good way to keep to your budget, but following your vehicle’s maintenance schedule is probably the best way to keep your car’s fuel efficiency at the maximum. A well running automobile is better for you, your car, the environment AND your wallet!

One more thing:  there are apps for your mobile phone that will help you find the best gasoline prices near you.  It can pay to research apps like GasBuddy.

For more information or to make an appointment for our professionals to help get your vehicle as fuel efficient as possible, call Pickering’s Auto Service today!

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