Wednesday, May 16, 2012

$aving on gas

Egads! The price of a gallon of gas keeps going up and up here in the NW.  We're getting closer to the $4.50/gal mark.  The entire West Coast has been affected by these price spikes.  From what I understand it's a refinery-related supply problem.  And it looks like it could continue for another couple of months (the experts can't agree whether it's a weeks or months situation).

What's a body to do, right?

There's plenty you can do starting right now. Here are 10 simple starters to stretch your fuel.

  • Do you own a tire pressure gauge?  Inflate your tires to the manufacturer's specification.  Check tires once a month for optimal efficiency.  This should be done in the morning hours when the temperature is lowest.  Tire pressure information on all cars 2003 and later is required to be located on the driver-side door jamb.  Cars manufactured before 2003 could have this info on driver-side door or jamb, the rear passenger doorjamb, the fuel filler door, glove box or console door or in the engine compartment. This info should also be listed in your owner's manual.  And ladies, we can learn to do this, too.   
  • Brake and accelerate less.  You know this already.  Ease up on the gas long before the stop sign, then brake as needed.  Gently accelerate when the light turns green.
  • Drive in the right-hand lane.  Think of your car as a little old lady using a cane.  Give her more time to get up to speed.  Now this isn't always practical.  Like in the morning when you're running late.  But consider this mode of driving in the afternoons.  No one said you have to be frugal 24/7.
  • Use your AC less, and the vents and windows more.  (Air conditioning uses additional fuel for the compressor.) For me, if it's under 74 degrees outside, I can be comfortable with just the vents and fan blowing.  I don't need the AC until about 74-75 degrees.  For warmer climates, I've always heard that if traveling at less than 30-35 MPH, for fuel efficiency, it's better to open the windows. If 40 MPH and above, aerodynamically speaking, it's better to use the AC. 
  • Wear fewer layers of clothing (if you need a jacket for appearance at your destination, toss it in the back seat while commuting). Also, bring a bottle of ice water with you. You'll be more comfortable at higher temps and you'll stay hydrated.
  • Park in the shade -- the shade of a huge gas guzzling SUV, the shade of a tree, the shade of a building. Your car won't be so hot when you come back to it. And you won't need the AC as much.
  • Park closer to the parking lot entrance, instead of closer to the store/library/mall/school doors.  You'll save on gas coming and going, you'll get a bit of exercise and you'll be the first one out of the parking lot.  *Bonus* if you're parking away from the rest of the cars, there's less chance your car will get dinged or scratched by another driver.
  • Also in parking lots, take a pull-through spot.  This is a spot where you can pull through to the other side and park.  You won't use extra gas backing up when you're ready to leave (and there's less chance you'll hit something if you're not backing up--that can cost a bundle!)
  • Consider postponing your summer vacation until later in the summer, if it's to be a driving one.  If the experts who think this West Coast shortage is just a "weeks" problem, then supply should increase by mid-summer.
  • If you have several errands to run, organize the driving so that you make mostly right turns and few left turns.  This is a planning strategy that UPS (the parcel delivery service) drivers follow.  Making left turns causes you to spend more time waiting/idling at left turn lights.  

These are just small ways to increase your fuel efficiency.  But it's like picking up pennies, one doesn't buy anything, but a handful becomes dollars quickly.

With prices edging higher, I try to make a game of making the gas in the tank last longer.  At least, then, my focus is on my little game and not the price of ga$.

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