10 Simple Steps to Save Gas and Improve Gas Mileage

About this time last year, when the national average price of gasoline was over $4 per gallon, many of us were obsessed with trying to squeeze as many miles as possible out of each tank of gas. 

For a while though, as gas prices fell almost as rapidly as they climbed, many of us seemed to stop caring as much about continuing to conserve gas.  After all, it’s much easier to look the other way when it costs only $20 to fill up when compared to the $45 it cost just six months earlier.

However, with the economy continuing to crumble, the job market getting worse by the day, and money getting tighter for the average family, it seems like now would be a good time to revisit those gas saving tips we tried so hard to learn last spring and summer.

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Who Else Wants it to be Illegal to Text While Driving?

Picture the following scenario: you’re driving your normal route to work, minding your own business.  Then, out of the corner of your eye, you see that the car next to you started to slowly veer into your lane.  You look over and see the driver next to you is busy texting.

How many times has this very scenario happened to you?  Or, more importantly, how many times have you been the driver guilty of texting while driving?

It is currently illegal to text while driving in six states: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington.  Attempts to ban text messaging are currently being made by many more states as well.

Are these bans prime examples of state governments overstepping their bounds and interfering with private matters, or should every state step up and ban texting while driving in an effort to protect “innocent” motorists?

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Fuel Economy Tip – Follow the “3 Second Rule”

Here’s a tip that will not only help you increase your vehicle’s fuel economy, but will also help you become a much safer driver:

Follow the “3 Second Rule”

As you are driving down the road – particularly at highway speeds – make sure that you give keep plenty of space between your car, truck, SUV, etc. and the vehicle in front of you. In most cases, you are giving proper spacing if you are traveling three seconds behind the car in front of you, however, you will likely need to give more time and space if you’re driving in bad weather.

For those of you who don’t know how to tell how close you are traveling to the car in front of you, pick a set object up a head – an exit sign, a light pole, etc. – and once the bumper of the car you’re following crosses the designated object, begin counting and don’t stop until the hood of your car passes the same object.

Following the “3 Second Rule” will help keep you from constantly tapping your brakes and accelerator every time the car in front of you slows down and speeds up. By avoiding tap dancing on your brake and accelerator pedals, you can significantly increase your fuel economy. Here’s why:

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Hypermiling Tips You Should Avoid

As gasoline prices have increase over the last several years, many people have resorted to very creative ways to increase gas mileage. These drivers – commonly referred to as “hypermilers” – try to push their car to get the best fuel economy possible, and many have been able to double their car’s EPA estimated gas mileage.

While most of their tips revolve around driving the correct speed and making sure your car is in top shape, many of their “extreme tips” are dangerous and should not be attempted under any circumstance. Here are some of the more egregious trips that you should never consider using no matter how badly you’d like to increase your car’s fuel economy:

Cruising through stop signs. Rolling through stop signs will help you save gas because you won’t need to use as much energy (read: fuel) to get back up to whatever speed you’re supposed to be traveling. In the end, this probably won’t save you too much gas, and could end up costing you a lot of money.

Blowing through stop signs is a bad idea for a couple reasons. First and foremost, it’s against the law, and if you get caught you can expect to get a nice fine and probably a hike in your insurance premiums – which will, without a doubt, more than negate any money you save on gas. Second, it’s dangerous. By running stop signs you’re increasing the chance of hitting a pedestrian and getting into an accident.

Recommendation: No matter how desperate you are to increase your fuel economy, I think it’s safe to say that running through stop signs isn’t something you should be doing.

Tailgating large trucks (think 18 wheelers). Here’s another dangerous idea that should always be avoided. When you’re tailgating or “drafting” behind a large vehicle, you’ll increase your car’s fuel economy because you won’t have to overcome as much air resistance; in turn, you’ll use less fuel.

When traveling closely behind an 18 wheeler, you are putting yourself in the driver’s blind spot, meaning he or she can’t see you and probably don’t even know you’re behind them. Obviously, part of being a safe driver is knowing where all the other vehicles around you are so that you can plan and act accordingly.

Also, the closer you drive to any vehicle, the less reaction time you have if something were to go wrong. If you’re only a couple of feet away from a big rig’s bumper you’re not going to be able to avoid an accident should the truck need to attempt to come to an abrupt stop.

Recommendation: Travel a safe distance behind all vehicles (remember the three second rule?) and travel the speed limit, especially on the highway.

Shutting off your car while it’s still moving. This tip will help increase fuel economy because, as expected, if your car’s engine is off, it’s not using any gas. This tip is often used while a car is traveling down hill, so that it can use not only the energy generated while the car was on, but energy generated from gravity as well.

It should be fairly obvious that this is an absolutely terrible idea. If your car is off and you’re still in motion, the chances of something bad happening are increased exponentially. You won’t have the ability to quickly accelerate to get out of a tight spot; you’ll lose power steering, making it more difficult to turn the vehicle; and chances are if you turn the steering wheel too far, you’ll end up locking it in place.

While it’s tough to pick the worst extreme hypermiling tip, this one should certainly be in consideration.

Recommendation: When going down hills simply let off the accelerator and let gravity do its job.

Over inflating your tires. By over inflating your tire pressure by 20 or so pounds per square inch (PSI), you apparently will see a slight increase in fuel economy because you’ll have less tire surface on the road – meaning you’ll need slightly less energy to get the car moving and maintain speed.

However, with this decrease in tire contact with the road comes a decrease in traction and an increase in the chance you will be unable to maintain control of your vehicle. Also, over inflating tires will make them more susceptible to blowouts and uneven wear.

Recommendation: Simply make sure your tires are inflated to the car manufacturer’s recommended PSI. This should be more than enough to help get better fuel economy.

While it’s nice to increase your vehicle’s fuel economy, it’s not worth risking your life.

Stick to the tried, true and safe methods you’ve heard ad nauseum over the last year or so: drive the speed limit, make sure your tires are properly inflated, use moderate acceleration, etc. You likely won’t double your gas mileage this way, but you will save money at the pump while being a safe and courteous driver.

Fuel Economy Tip – Accelerate Less Rapidly

Today’s tip is along the same lines as yesterday’s, only it doesn’t concern how fast you go, rather how fast you get to that speed.

Accelerate less rapidly.

How many times have you pulled up to a red light or stop sign and then “floored it” when the light turned green or it was your turn to go? That’s a great strategy if you’re a professional drag racer or you just like to waste gas and ruin your vehicle’s fuel economy.

According to Car Junky.com, rapid acceleration, coupled with excessive breaking, can reduce your vehicle’s gas mileage by up to 33% at highway speeds and up to 5% during local driving.

That’s a significant amount of money you’re losing for just wanting to be the first person off the line or to fly past the slow poke in the middle lane.

Imagine being able to save literally hundreds of dollars each year on your vehicle’s fuel costs by simply taking it easy when you accelerate.

Obviously, there are going to be times when you need to “punch it” but if you can minimize those times, you’re not going to needlessly lose money each time you have to fill up your vehicle.

Fuel Economy Tip – Drive The Speed Limit

This tip is the first tip because it will keep you from losing your money not only to the gas pump, but to tickets and insurance as well.

According to Fuel Economy.Gov, for every additional 5 miles per hour (mph) you drive over 60 mph, you are spending an additional $.19 per gallon of gas. At today’s national average price for unleaded fuel, that would be the equivalent to adding over 6.5% to your gas bill.

Let’s look at it in regards to the amount of money you’re losing in a year by driving 5 mph over the speed limit:

If you fill up your 12 gallon tank once a week, that $.19 per gallon ends up costing you $118.56 per year!

Don’t tell me that $.19 per gallon doesn’t add up over time.

In addition to saving you money at the pump, driving the speed limit saves you money in additional ways:

  1. Reduces your chances for a speeding ticket (that shouldn’t come as a shock).
  2. Reduces your chances for getting into a serious accident.
  3. Because of reasons 1 and 2, you’re more likely to have lower insurance premiums.
  4. Reduces the wear and tear on your car, helping it last longer.

All of these things considered, speeding probably costs the average driver several hundred dollars each year.

Care to tell me again why you’re speeding?

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