10 Ways to Cut Gas Costs and Save the Planet

With gas prices creeping back up, wouldn’t you love to have a more fuel efficient car? Did you know you have one in your driveway? I thought I was a pretty green driver, but I learned we can all squeeze a little more gas out of each tank and cut down on exhaust emissions at the same time.MREA-2

At the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s 20th Annual Energy Fair last Saturday, Francis Vogel, executive director of Wisconsin Clean Cities opened my eyes. Check out these 10 tips. You probably know some of them, but I’ll bet you don’t know them all. I didn’t.

1. Slow Down. What’s your hurry — Late for Global Warming? Go the speed limit, you not only can – you should. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 55 mph. Each 5 mph you drive over 55 is like paying an additional 10 cents for each gallon of gas.

2. Be Smooth. Ease up to that red light. It takes 20 percent less gas to accelerate from 5 mph than from a full stop.

3. Back off. Tailgating is not only dangerous , it requires extra braking and acceleration that can cut your fuel economy by 5 to 10 percent.

4. Sweat can be sweet. Turn off your air conditioner unless you are roasting. The A/C guzzles nearly a gallon of gas per tankful.

5. Window Wise. Roll up your windows and turn on the fresh air vents at speeds over 40 mph. The drag caused by open windows eats up more gas than operating the A/C.

6. Made in the shade. Try not to park in the sun. Keep a sunshade in your car to reflect heat away from the passenger compartment when you park.

7. Stay pumped. Check your tire pressure every few weeks. You may notice that the recommended pressure in your auto manual or the door panel sticker is lower than the maximum printed on the side of the tire. Go with the higher figure on the tire. It’s a harder ride, but more efficient. (This is what I learned at the workshop, but since then (Oct5) I have been told that running tires at their maximum will cause them to wear quicker.  This seems valid.  So I would modify my advice to say use your judgement here, but don’t let your tires get low — that seems like a safe compromise.)

8. Idle Not. You save money and pollute less if you turn off the car whenever you expect to idle for more than 30 seconds. And don’t always choose the drive through window. Stretch your legs. Walk into that fast food emporium or bank. Excessive idling can damage engine parts, and idling gets 0 miles per gallon. You can learn a LOT more about idling (to not to — as Mater said in the poignant Pixar film, Car) at this post, Idle Thoughts.

9. Haul Less. Keep your anvil collection in the garage. Get rid of all that extra junk in your trunk. You get 4 percent less gas mileage for every 100 pounds of excess weight in your car. And if you have a choice of putting cargo on top of the car or inside, cram it inside to decrease wind drag.

10. Plan Ahead. When you first start your car after it has been sitting for more than an hour, it pollutes up to five times more than when the engine is warm, and several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer, multi-purpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm — so combine errands into one trip.

You just fattened your wallet and reduced your carbon footprint.

My next post on Friday will be on  my personal arch enemy — the vibrant and vindictive Wild Parsnip.

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9 replies

  1. I recently started driving like this and increased my mileage to 30 mpg up from 17 in a 90 dodge caravan. I only drive the car to work though, so I can’t avoid the cold start or parking in the sun. Drive it 13 miles at a time. Getting to 500 on my odometer before having to flush another $35 on fillup feels great.

    • It does feel good, doesn’t it. I don’t mind saving money, and I really love easing my painfully green conscience. Then there is also just the relaxation that comes from easing back on the gas. I love seeing a police car parked in a place to catch speeders and then realizing I don’t have anything to worry about.

  2. DO NOT follow number 7. The pressure on the tire sidewall is the maximum safe pressure for that particular tire. If you think the savings in gas are worth the hard ride, run a few pounds heavier than your manual says, but don’t run the max. It is harder on the tires and will cause them to wear quicker. Then you’ll undo any granola eating goodness you caused by saving a tenth of a gallon per tank with the consumption of more tires over the life of the vehicle.

    This is what happens when people who don’t understand cars start talking about cars.

  3. DO NOT follow number 7. The pressure on the tire sidewall is the maximum safe pressure for that particular tire. If you think the savings in gas are worth the hard ride, run a few pounds heavier than your manual says, but don’t run the max. It is harder on the tires and will cause them to wear quicker. Then you’ll undo any granola eating goodness you caused by saving a tenth of a gallon per tank with the consumption of more tires over the life of the vehicle.

    This is what happens when people who don’t understand cars start talking about cars.

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