Saving money at the gas pump sounds like an impossibility, but don’t give up just yet! The best way to save money on gas starts with changing your driving habits before you arrive at the pump.
Hypermilers get criticized for radical gas saving maneuvers, like shutting off the engine and turning without power. You don’t have to do anything that’s potentially unsafe to save gas. These are simple, safe ways to conserve gas and save money:
- Avoid idling with the motor on. If you dash into a convenience store, don’t leave the motor running. While waiting to pick up the children at school, don’t idle in the long pickup line. Park the car and walk over to pick up the children. You’ll also get some exercise.
- Identify the shortest, most efficient route to work, school and grocery store. The main street may look shorter but not if there’s several traffic lights. A back road, even at a slower but consistent speed might be the best gas saving route.
Plan multiple stops along the way. Think twice before jumping into the car to drive across town for a $5 savings. With gas prices so high, you can spend more driving to get a sale price than in what you actually save.
- Slide, don’t slam. Whenever possible, take your foot off the accelerator and let the car gradually decelerate before reaching a stop sign or red light. Let gravity work in your favor instead of racing to the light only to slam on the brake. That wastes gas and wears out your tires faster.
- A well-maintained car operates more efficiently on less gas. Keep your engine tuned, oil changed and fluids at proper levels. Something as simple as keeping the proper type and amount of oil can improve operational efficiency.
If the engine strains to function, get an engine diagnostic scan to make certain that things like the valve timing, fuel pump and ignition are operating properly. Spending money on regular tune-ups is cheaper in the long run than the extra cost of gas plus wear and tear on the vehicle.
- Drive gently. Changing your driving habits is the cheapest and easiest way to improve fuel economy for any type of vehicle. Don’t race away from the traffic light – instead, make a gradual acceleration. When going downhill, let gravity instead of gas power the descent. Reduce your use of the air conditioner. Open the windows to let out hot air before turning on the air conditioner.
Remember, the next time you fill up at the pump, make note of the amount of gas, price per gallon and current vehicle mileage. You need to monitor the gas usage to evaluate which gas saving techniques work best for your vehicle.
You can also watch the prices of gas stations on your regular driving route. The same brand name station on the main street or highway entrance is usually more expensive per gallon than the station that’s a few blocks off the main route.
Can You Save With These 3 Alternative Fuels?
As the cost of a gallon of gasoline tops four dollars, researchers are scrambling to come up with a viable fuel alternative that’s cheaper and readily available. Three of these include: Biodiesel, Electricity, and Ethanol.
Biodiesel is a renewable fuel produced by a variety of vegetable oils and animal fats. It can be used in a pure form or blended with other products. Biodiesel is clean burning, non toxic and biodegradable.
It’s also less combustible and relatively easy to produce domestically and can even be made at home but this is not recommended. If strict guidelines are not followed it could damage an expensive diesel engine. It’s safe to handle, store and transport making it very desirable from a security and health standpoint. The U. S. biodiesel industry currently is very small but growing rapidly.
Electricity can be used to power pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Electric vehicles (EVs) work by storing energy in batteries and powering the wheels by an electric motor. Storage capacity and distance are limited. Some have on board chargers and others require a plug-in.
These vehicles are small but quiet and have no tail pipe emissions. They’re mostly used for neighborhood commuting, light hauling and delivery with a maximum speed of 35 mph. Batteries have to be replaced about every four years or 20,000 miles.
No major auto manufacturer has yet begun producing a total electric vehicle saying the demand isn’t there. But some small independent manufacturers have found a niche market and increasing demand.
Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from a variety of plants called biomass. In the U. S., ethanol is primarily made from corn but in Brazil they use sugar cane. It contains the same chemical compound found in alcohol.
Research is continuing into Cellulosic Ethanol Feedstock. This includes making the fuel from agricultural residue such as wheat straw and leaves, forestry wastes such as wood chips and sawdust and even plant derived household garbage together with waste paper products.
Grasses are now also being grown for ethanol production. Benefits include total manufacture domestically, low greenhouse emissions and creating jobs in depressed employment sectors.
A gallon of pure ethanol contains 34% less energy than a gallon of gas and gets lower gas mileage. It can only be used in flex fuel vehicles but is usually priced cheaper in order to compete with higher priced gasoline.
The U. S. Department of Energy says these three fuels increase our energy security, improve public health and our environment. Studies estimate that ethanol and other biofuels could reduce more than 30% of gas demand in the United States by the year 2030. Usually, when demand drops, so do prices.
How Can a Gas Mileage Device Help Me Save Money?
If you passed by those “fuel booster” products before, chances are you’re now stopping to take a serious look. But which products really make a difference and which are just useless ways to spend more money?
Here are some of the new devices that claim gas mileage improvement:
Fuel Additives have long been on the market at both automotive stores and discount retailers. Prices vary, as do the claims of success. There are brand name fuel additives as well as those created by entrepreneurs. Whatever you buy, just keep this in mind – once it gets into the fuel tank, it better be safe or you’re in for a monster repair bill!
Oil Additives improve the flow of the oil, which is important for smooth engine functioning. Additives are designed to improve the lubrication.
Fuel Magnets are something people swear by. Magnetic energy is used for healing the body so why not the gas tank? The claim is that the magnets help reduce the jumble of fuel molecules so that the fuel flow is more efficient. Fuel magnets are cheap and easy to install, but you have to decide whether you see any notable improvement in fuel economy.
Vortex Generators sound like science fiction but are actually methods to inject air. The theory is that by making a small wind tunnel effect, the fuel will mix better and burn more efficiently. Air injection products come in a variety of price ranges and complexity with unproven results.
Mixture enhancers are attached between the intake manifold and the carburetor. This device works by improving the air to fuel mixture with vaporization.
Fuel temperature devices intercept the fuel on the way to the carburetor. The device either heats or cools the fuel, which is supposed to expand it. Some of these have been EPA tested but many are not tested. Another approach to altering the fuel delivery is by adding metals. The theory is that these loose metallic pieces increase the ionization of the fuel.
Acetone can be used as a fuel additive. Acetone is found in paints, pesticides, lacquers and nail polish removers. It’s cheap and accessible in drug stores or home improvement stores. A little dab is all that’s needed, with only a small amount added to the gas tank. The claim is that acetone improves vaporization so that the fuel is fully combustible.
Attachments and accessories of all types are hitting the market as eager inventors try to produce the next hottest fuel saving device for gas price weary consumers. Be careful of devices that alter your engine function or pour inside the gas tank or oil reservoir. Don’t rush to save a few bucks on gas only to spend hundreds on repair.
Change Your Habits and Lower Your Gas Expenses
Old habits are hard to break. We get used to doing things a certain way and we’re not interested in changing no matter what. But with gasoline exceeding four dollars a gallon we’re rethinking our old driving habits to see if we can cut down on fuel consumption.
Fuel efficiency can be done in a number of ways. If we can just add a mile or two per gallon here and another there it will add up to significant savings over a period of time. Oil is a non-renewable resource and when we save on gas, it helps us with our reduced dependency on foreign oil. Over 50% of our gas comes from foreign lands!
Many of our bad old habits can be logged under one heading: Drive Sensibly. Avoid aggressive driving. In other words steer clear of rapid acceleration and quick braking. This alone can lower gas mileage up to 33%.
Of course you don’t speed. Do you? Speeders rarely get to their destination much earlier than law abiders and waste a lot more gas. Gas usage goes up considerably at speeds over 60 mph. For each 5 mph your drive over 60 you can add an additional 30 cents a gallon to your bill.
When you’re on the highway, use cruise control, which helps maintain a constant speed. Use the highest gear possible and overdrive gears if you have them. The faster an engine is turning the more gas you’re using. Pay attention to your tachometer. Plus, a slower turning engine means less friction and engine wear.
Avoid excessive idling. Idling gets zero miles per gallon. It doesn’t get much worse than that. If you’re stopped for a train or backed up in a fast food take out line or waiting for a drive thru bank teller stop your engine if you’re going to be idling for more than 30 seconds. The bigger your vehicle the more gas you’re using even when idling. It costs less to restart than idle.
Turn off the air conditioning. It may get hot but try opening a window and breathe in the fresh air. An air conditioner can lower your mileage by two to three miles per gallon.
Is this trip necessary? Don’t drive until you have several errands or appointments to combine. Avoid doing these errands during peak rush times. If possible, and the distance is short, try walking or riding a bicycle.
Know where you’re going before you start out. Don’t drive around looking for something. I’m afraid the good old days of dragging Main Street with friends are gone. Now, it’s called car-pooling and friends who share the gas bill or drive next time. Public transportation is also a good option. Changing bad driving habits doesn’t cost you a thing and will pay you big dividends in fuel economy and saving money.