Nothing puts a damper on a road trip like record-high prices at the pump. Unfortunately for road warriors, it doesn’t look like gas prices are going to take a downward turn any time soon. Hybrids seem like the perfect solution…but most of us can’t afford their $30,000-40,000 price tag.
There is a bright spot on the road trip horizon, however: with a few simple tips and tricks, your car can use its fuel much more efficiently. That means more gas mileage for your car and less sobbing over your sky-high gas receipts. Here are nine tips you can use to trick out your car into a lean, mean, gas-saving driving machine.
How to Effectively Cool Your Car
The great “air conditioning vs. windows down” debate that was highlighten in a MythBusters episode still rages on, but experts think they may be closer to having an answer.
According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, rolling your windows down instead of using your car’s air conditioning system will make your car more fuel-efficient. However, if you’re driving over 50 mph, it’s actually more efficient to use your air conditioning system because having your windows down creates a significant drag on your car.
Master Your Cooling System
We’re well aware that if you live in, say, Arizona or New Mexico, there’s no way you’re turning off your air conditioning at any speed. However, there are still ways you can save on gas while beating the heat. Roll down your windows either before you get in or as soon as you open your door to help that dreaded heat bubble escape your car-turned-greenhouse. Turn on your A/C and keep one window down to give your cooling system a helping hand.
When you feel it’s cooler in your car than it is outside, roll up your windows and let your A/C run until you feel comfortable. Then, switch your system to the “re-circulate” option, so your car only has to cool the previously chilled air and not the scalding air outside. Lower your fan speed as low as it can go so your car doesn’t have to work as hard to cool the cabin. If you’ve got a newer car, make sure your air cabin filter doesn’t need to be changed.
Check Your Tire Pressure
Your car needs its tires to be inflated to a certain level in order to operate at maximum efficiency. Being either too high or too low can cause your car to waste fuel.
Check your tire pressure every time you fill up at the pump. You’ll find your car’s optimum PSI located in your owner’s manual. As an added benefit, your car’s tires won’t need to be replaced as often if you properly maintain their pressure.
Stop Ignoring That Check Engine Light
Yeah, it’s probably nothing. Nothing dire, that is. Even a minor engine issue means your car isn’t running at max capacity.
This also means doing regular maintenance checks on your car: are your spark plugs out-of-shape? How do your belts look? If you don’t want your engine to work harder and use more fuel than it has to, you’re going to have to keep it in tip-top shape.
Lose the Junk in Your Trunk
Extra weight in your car means your engine has to work harder to move the mass in your vehicle. Take out anything you don’t need from your backseat or trunk.
Change Your Air Filter
Your engine has to combine air and fuel at the proper rate for efficient combustion. If your engine is struggling to breathe, it’s not going to be using its fuel efficiently, either.
Take Off the Bike or Luggage Racks
Do everything you can to reduce drag and weight on your car. That means only putting on your add-on racks when you need them– and taking them off as soon as your trip is done.
Use the Correct Grade of Oil for Your Car
Check your oil cap or your owner’s manual to find out which grade of oil your car needs. If you’re running your engine with the wrong oil grade, it’ll run hotter and use more gas than it should.
Enough With the Premium Gas
Does your owner’s manual explicitly say you should use higher octane gas? If not, your car is designed to run on regular fuel. According to the Federal Trade Commission, high octane gas has absolutely no benefit on your car unless your manual specifically recommends it. Otherwise, premium gas is a waste of money.
A Final Tip: Want to know the absolute best change you could make to your car right now to save gas? Don’t use it. Walk to the store. Break out that bike in your garage. Carpool. Take the bus or the subway. If you don’t need to use your car, don’t. There’s no better way to save on gas.