Gas Saving Tips

cowboyindOctober 14, 2004

Gas is going up again. Now in most areas of the U.S. it's over $2 a gallon. Here are some gas saving ideas I've collected over the years. I use these myself to get better than the EPA mileage estimates on every vehicle I own:

1. Shut it off. If you're idling your engine waiting at railroad crossings, drive-through windows, and in other similar situations, shut it off instead. If you're idling longer than 45 seconds, it'd be cheaper to shut it off and then re-start. Avoid drive-throughs completely if possible. Often I find that when I go into a bank or fast-food restaurant, I walk out and drive away while the same cars are still sitting in the drive-through line--almost all of them with their engines idling and wasting fuel.

2. Keep tires properly inflated. Use the inflation pressure given in the vehicle's owner's manual, which is also often printed on a sticker on the driver's door.

3. Combine trips. This is especially important in colder months, because a cold engine uses a lot more fuel than a warm one. If you combine several errands into one trip, the engine stays somewhat warm as you're stopped at each place.

4. Avoid extended warm-ups. In above-freezing weather, just start it up and drive off. If you want to warm it up some in below-freezing weather, keep the idling to two or three minutes at most. Long periods of idling keep the engine colder longer, wasting fuel. Plus you're getting zero miles per gallon with the engine idling. Anytime the engine is cold, drive easily for the first few miles to reduce wear on the engine.

5. Keep speeds moderate and acceleration gentle. Not only do both of these practices save fuel, but they also help your vehicle last longer. The faster you go, the more fuel you will use. Going 75 mph down the highway uses more fuel than going 65, in every single case.

6. Change your oil and air filter. Dirty oil adds friction, which wastes gas. A dirty air filter causes poor airflow through the engine, which also wastes gas.

7. Avoid "gas saving" gadgets. They are a waste of money. Any gadget that would really save gas would be included on the car as standard. Many of these items will not only cost you money, but will actually make the car run worse or could even cause damage.

8. Don't use premium fuel unless your owner's manual calls for it, or unless your vehicle "pings" heavily on regular unleaded fuel. Higher octane fuel than the engine requires will NOT cause it to get better fuel economy, but it will just cost you more to fill up your tank. Some vehicles with very high mileage do need the higher octane fuel if they "ping" (spark knock) heavily on regular unleaaded. Light knocking on acceleration is not a problem, but if the knocking continues at a constant speed, or is very loud, move up to a high enough octane to reduce it. Persistent, heavy knocking reduces an engine's efficiency and can damage it in extreme cases.

9. Pickup truck drivers, don't lower the tailgate when driving on the highway. A GM study showed that this does not improve fuel economy, and can even make it worse. With the gate closed, air flows across the top of the bed and does not get "caught" by the tailgate. The airflow patterns are less efficient with the tailgate open or removed. Plus, running with the tailgate down can increase the likelihood and severity of a rear-end accident, since your tailgate will be extended behind your rear bumper.

10. If your car has air conditioning, be aware that the a/c compressor often runs in many other positions besides the a/c settings. Frequently it runs in the defrost or "mix" position, as well as "bi-level." Obviously, use the defrost when needed, but change the setting to "heat," "floor," or "vent" if defrosting or defogging is not needed. The a/c can cut 10 to 15 percent off of your fuel mileage, so there's no point in running it when it's not needed. Any time you are warming the air coming into the vehicle, the a/c is normally not needed. If you have one, keep your airflow setting in the "fresh" or "outside" mode, not "recirculate" or "inside." Recirculating inside air during cool weather can cause your windows to fog up.

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One tip I did not see mentioned is to shift into as high a gear as possible as traffic permits. This, of course, is easier for those of us who drive manual-shift cars, but even those driving automatics can 1) make sure the "economy" or "D" position is selected; and 2) can modulate the accelerator to shift gears sooner. Most automatics I have experience with will stay in gear if you're still accelerating in 2nd or 3rd, but if you let up on the pedal just a bit, will shift down a gear and still let you accelerate.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2004 at 8:40PM
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That's true, and accelerating gently is usually the way to "help" an automatic to upshift the soonest. Doing as you say and letting up on the pedal a little when you reach the speed where you know it will go into overdrive can also help. Then, once you're in overdrive, keep a constant throttle position so it stays in overdrive and doesn't shift in and out of it.

Another tip that was emailed to me is to use the cruise control when possible. That's usually a good idea, unless you're driving in a hilly area, when the cruise control can actually make the gas mileage worse. In hilly conditions, if traffic permits, it's better to let the vehicle slow down a little on the uphill sections, and then gain the speed back on the downhill side. If you use the cruise in these conditions, it will floor the accelerator if necessary to keep the speed constant while going uphill. I've seen cruise controls force vehicles to downshift all the way to second gear and take the engine nearly to redline to hold speed. This is obviously not good for economy.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2004 at 1:58AM
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Hi cowboy,

Recirculating inside air in cooler weather isn't so bad - if you can get guests in the car to stop breathing. If one is riding alone there is usually not much of such a problem.

I think that the reduction in gas mileage between 65 and 75 is higher than the reduction in such mileage between 45 and 55: the higher the speed, the greater increase in consumption per increase of the same amount of speed.

Do you have an idea at what level one achieves the best gas mileage?

It would, of course, be at the level where the engine is operating at optimum level in the highest available gear. To go at a higher speed would entail higher wind resistance.

Increasing speed rapidly is a real gas waster - I've heard that one should always drive as though there's a (raw) egg between one's foot and the gas pedal.

Drive quite a way ahead of your current location - when you see a traffic light go yellow about a block away, take your foot off of the gas.

Driving a standard transmission car, I push in the clutch and turn off the key, turning the key on and letting out the clutch just before arriving at the light. Unless some other driver is close behind me - no sense in developing road rage in other drivers.

All of this stopping the engine and starting again in a car with an automatic transmission may result in earlier wearout of one's starter.

I hope that you can go to the auto recyclers (they used to be called "auto wreckers"), know your make and model of car and remove a similar starter yourself, if they allow that, then install it in your own vehicle. Much lower cost if one can do that.

It helps if one can learn at least the rudiments of how cars work - may produce some saving in unnecessary repairs avoided that might be carried out by unscrupulous repair people.

Get to know a mechanic, who can trouble-shoot for you, and educate you in how cars work. A few ideas at a time - not enough to give you mechanical indigestion.

If several householders (probably mostly seniors, who may have more flexible schedules) can go grocery shopping or running other errands together, that saves on gas, as well.

Some manufacturing plants and other businesses around here encourage employees to car pool - Ford's auto production plant near here, where they build Crown Vics and Grand Marquises, even helps finance the vans that they use.

Good wishes for happy, economical motoring.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   October 16, 2004 at 10:27PM
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Driving a standard transmission car, I push in the clutch and turn off the key, turning the key on and letting out the clutch just before arriving at the light. Unless some other driver is close behind me - no sense in developing road rage in other drivers.

A word to anyone thinking of trying this: do not turn the key to the point where the steering column locks. If you do, you have abandoned control of your car and will not be able to react quickly if something appears in front of you.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2004 at 8:06AM
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Joyfulguy, you are probably right that there is a bigger mileage penalty when you increase the speed from 65 to 75, as compared to increasing it from 45 to 55. But one thing is always true: Once you are overdrive gear, or whatever is "top" gear on a certain car, the faster you go, the poorer economy you will get.

So, to answer your question, the best fuel economy will be achieved by going at the slowest speed you can comfortably drive the car in its top gear. When I say "comfortably," I guess I mean "comfortably for you and the engine," meaning that it runs smoothly and does not lug, or knock, or buck. Downshift for uphill grades to keep the engine running smoothly. However, if you can speed up gently in advance of the grade to enable yourself to take it in top gear smoothly without downshifting, this will save more fuel still.

For this reason most cars will achieve their maximum economy at a steady 40 to 45 mph on a level road. Most manual shift cars can be shifted into overdrive by this point, and most automatics will go into overdrive by 40 mph or so if you ease off the gas pedal to let them shift.

On your point about the recirculated air, this is probably true. Depending on the vehicle, you may be able to get by with leaving the lever or button set to "recirculate" or "inside" air if just the driver is in the car. But I see SO many cars driving around all winter with the windows all fogged up that I know that far too many people make improper use of this control. (Japanese and European cars had this problem far sooner, since they were the first to enable drivers to select recirculated air in any mode, but now many U.S. models provide the same option.) Also, I included this as a fuel economy tip because what happens in many cases is that people leave the control set to "recirculate" in the winter, necessitating the use of the a/c in the winter to keep the windows clear, wasting fuel. Fresh air would do the same thing more effectively than the a/c, and it's free.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2004 at 7:38PM
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Hi cowboy,

I haven't had much success in suggesting to passengers that they stop breathing.


    Bookmark   October 19, 2004 at 4:00PM
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Well, it'd be okay if they inhaled, but you'd have to get them to put their head out of the window to exhale.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2004 at 12:16AM
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Hi battered but uncowed,

Never thought of that - sounds like a good diea.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 21, 2004 at 8:52PM
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:) I like the old rule 'if it's too short a drive to make putting your seat belt on worth the effort- walk'

of course, my crunchy old ankles won't get me to the end of the block on foot- but I've rediscovered biking as a means of transportation, not just an exercise thing...

it might take me three times as long to run up to the 7-11 for a gallon of milk- but I never have to worry about parking, and every mile I don't put on my old car (ok, she's only a '94, but she's got 120K on her, and I'm NOT looking to replace her) is a good thing :)

    Bookmark   October 26, 2004 at 12:00PM
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My 1990 Dodge Colt (made by Mitsubishi) turned over 308,000 km. (about 187,000 mi.) yesterday.

En route to my daughter's invitation to my son and me to supper - for his birthday.

Which is on your election day.

A couple of days ago our provincial premier in our oil and gas province, now rolling in dough, called an election for November 22 in their province.

My daughter's birthday - she hits the big 40. I can hardly believe it.

Good wishes to all for many happy birthdays - for both you and your vehicle.

Remember - it takes a great deal of energy to build a new one for you.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   October 26, 2004 at 2:33PM
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Cars will last a lot longer than most people will take the time and effort to make them last. It appears that many people have a lot more money to buy new things than they have time to take care of things, or at least they pretend that's the case.

As gas prices have spiked up again lately, there is a lot of interest in smaller and more fuel efficient cars, which in itself is a good thing. But if a person trades in a 20 mpg vehicle for a 30 mpg vehicle, and if they drive 15,000 miles a year, that's a savings of 250 gallons of gas a year. Certainly that's worth considering IF you need a new car anyway, but even at $3 a gallon, 250 gallons a year is only $750. The sales tax alone on the new car is likely to take all of the first year's savings, and even much of the second year savings if you live somewhere with a high sales tax. Then there's the interest you pay, higher insurance, etc.

The bottom line is, the best way to save the most money is to keep the car you have for a long time and drive it in as efficient a manner as possible. It's amazing how many people are literally "car poor." If you trade yours in for a new one every two or three years, you're always paying interest on loans and always absorbing big depreciation losses.

Consider a $20,000 car that's purchased new and kept for three years, and traded in for $9,000 (in many cases that's an optimistic figure):

Sales Tax @6%: $1,200
Depreciation: $11,000
Interest: $2,500
Total Cost for Three Years: $14,700, or just under $5,000 a year.

Many people go through this with not one but two cars, raising the yearly cost just to have these vehicles parked in the driveway to $10,000. And that's before they pay the first insurance premium, perform the first maintenance service, or buy the first gallon of gas. Even if you go from two new cars to one new and one old one that's paid for, that's $5,000 a year in savings.

So if you have an older car that's paid off, there's just no earthly way to save any money by trading it for a new one, even if the new one gets double or even triple the gas mileage of the old one.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2004 at 1:03AM
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I bought my little, faithful Dodge "Colt" seven years and a bit ago, with about 87,000 mi. on the odometer, for about $2,700.00.


1.5 litre engine, standard transmission, so it sips gas.

I've put more that that amount of repairs on it since, I think. Paid for in cash - when I borrow, the interest I pay is money that I can't use to buy stuff for myself, next year. Goes up in smoke, so to speak.

It's gone 190,000 mi., now.

Does it owe me anything?

Not a cent.

Do I have money on hand to buy a replacement?


I like them apples.

Good wishes, all, for efficient transportation, that meets your needs.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   October 28, 2004 at 5:41PM
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The little Colt turned over 309,000 km. (over 190,000 mi.) today.

Coming through later afternoon traffic from home to here at the library, I coasted for 1.2 of the 2.0 km..

But the library is on the riverbank, so I won't be able to coast much of the way going home.

That's an advantage of a car with a standard transmission.

Good wishes to all for continued and more innovative conservation of the world's precious resources.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   November 11, 2004 at 6:18PM
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Nice tips!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2004 at 8:41AM
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First off - good wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving to all our U.S. friends.

We Canadians had Thanksgiving in early October. Have to be first off the mark, you know.

Confession time - the little car (310,000 km. on the odometer) quit on the freeway on the return journey, fortunately right before a service centre, so we were able to coast almost there and push it for a couple of hundred feet.

*Very* fortunate - a guy with a car-carryng trailer who'd delivered a vehicle to a nearby city stopped for gas, agreed to haul my car 20 mi. home to London. Ended up driving it 10 miles out of town (handy to his direction of travel), then took me about 5 miles to a friend's place to pick up my van ...

... and would take nothing for it ... he was " ... going that way, anyway ...."

I'd taken $30. out of my wallet, so put it on the dash. When he refused it, saying that I should use it to fix my car, I put it on the seat, picked up ten and left twenty for him.

A really nice guy.

The boys - who stayed behind, for me to pick up later - had made balloon animals for his kids.

Not sure what's wrong - could be timing belt died.

Son said, "It's nice that there are more people around that do the kind of things that you do, Dad".

The more people that we can encourage to act that way - the happier a society that we'll have.

The boys were downcast, as they'd gone 120 mi. one way to Toronto to the victory parade for Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, the team that won the Grey Cup, that goes to our national football annual winning team.

Son didn't sell one balloon, the friend sold less than half a dozen.

Son had planned to visit Detroit today for Thanksgiving Day parade ...

... and when we gave it some thought, were glad that the car hadn't quit around Detroit, for hauling it back over border, getting it fixed there, or whatever would have been a real mess.

We're still intact, though soon to be a bit? lighter in the wallet.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   November 25, 2004 at 1:40PM
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Hi again, all,

It appears that the car has died.

Clutch has been slipping some and I was to take it in for repair, this week.

It appears that the timing belt broke, which would not be surprising in a car of that age which had travelled that far.

But the garage says that they put in a new timing belt when they replaced the head gasket last spring. So, why did the nearly new one break? Possibly a seized water pump, or some similar situation, which would require more repair.

It will cost about a hundred to check it out.

That car has an "interference" engine - which means that, if the camshaft doesn't turn, to open the valves at precisely the right time, a piston can hit a valve that's open, bending it. Which usually means, especially in an older engine, that it is scrap.

About $300 - 400 for a replacement engine (possibly with tranny, especially as I prefer unpopular standard transmissions, if such might be available). Could well be more.

Plus about $400. to install the replacement.

In a car that has high mileage on it, now? Not a wise use of money, for the car would be worth less after the repair than the cost of the repair. Which I might be willing to accept, if I could be reasonably sure that the car would travel a fairly long distance before some other major issue arrived. Not possible.

But, as I said earlier in this thread, the car doesn't owe me a cent.

And, as I paid a rather small amnount for it, over seven years ago, I've been able to develop enough savings that I am considering buying a 4 year old car, rather than the 7 year old one.

Scrap steel price is up, so I may get over $100. for it at the scrap yard.

Maybe you'd spare a small tear with me as I mourn the loss of that faithful little car?

It did cost a lot of energy to build that replacement that I'm considering. Energy that's precious.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 9:21PM
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We got rid of our second car. I drive DH to train then go to my job. Makes no sense to have a car for 10 mile a day.

I'm already driving 40k miles a year, what's a few more on top.

Plus this is one less car to clean snow off of in the winter.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2004 at 2:06PM
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When a friend asked if there was a knock or bang when the engine quit and was told, "No - it just stopped", he said that it may well be that no damage to valves or piston(s) took place.

He's going to pull the head off of the engine to see whether there was contact between the valves and pistons.

The other day my friend who's selling me the 2000 Toyota Corolla told me to come in today.

Today he said that it has been e-tested, that he's fixing a problem with seat belt light going on when seat belt done up, then it needs safety check and he wants to drive it around for a couple of days to be sure that it's O.K.

I'm to come back Friday.

Wish me luck with the "new" auto, all, please.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   December 14, 2004 at 8:50PM
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good luck!

    Bookmark   December 15, 2004 at 4:16PM
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Friend can't do anything for my (more or less beloved) Colt - but it was a 1990 model, with 310,000+km. (just under 200,000 mi.) that I paid about $2,700. for 7 years ago, and has cost me probably over $3,000. since in repairs.

So it owes me nothing.

I'm to get the 2000 Toyota Corolla on Friday.

Meanwhile I'm driving the 1980 Ford van - the former owner told me last month that he thought that it had gone over 300,000 km. when he sold it - and it has turned over all 0's since, so that may be over 400,000 km. Hard to believe.

I tell passengers to be sure to put on their seat belt - wouldn't want to lose them.

Thought some chocolate disappeared the other day, and a cardboard container of chocolate milk developed a hole. Wondered what on earth was going on.

This morning saw a cat sitting contentedly up on a rug beside the window. Ah - ha!

Glad that I had enough cash to pay for the "new" car - before I cashed Uncle's bequest cheque the other day.

Plan to pass some on to nieces and nephew of my brother who died when they were teens, so they've had some rough times.

My brother and the (step)Uncle shared work on their neighbouring farms about thirty years ago and I suggested to Uncle when I stayed with him after his wife died that he leave some to them. He was considering it, but hadn't done it.

Found my cheque book the other day - need it to write some cheques to charities, medical research, churches etc. at Christmas.

Instead of a lot of gift giving, cards, etc.

Good wishes to all for good health, friends, happiness and enough to to live on.

ole joyful

P.S. If the van quits - or the police it off the road - before Friday, when I'm to get the car ...

... walking saves a lot of gas!

Actually, the van is in pretty good mechanical shape - but the body has a lot of holes.

oj (not juiced)

    Bookmark   December 15, 2004 at 6:51PM
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