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Acquiring New driving Practices

Posted by Ansuman Pal   08/19/2005 09:29AM

For last four and half years the job compelled me to get a chance to driving various compact to full size (rental) cars. Driven from outer New York city / New Jersey, Connecticut, to Chicago Illinois. I am sure many of you have done far more. I just wanted to share some of the basic tips from my experiences of how to save on gas while operating a vehicle in current High cost gas market and hope it will help at least one person.

1. Know your vehicle first.
2. Follow Driving Rules & Manufacturer’s guide, they are not because of it’s supposed to be but is to follow.
3. Read Manufactures Manual and DO NOT only go by what the dealer says. Refer other source too. It takes little time but can save a lot of money in long run. (my dealer tells me that I should change engine oil every 3000 miles but the manual tells me 7500 miles and it works for me)
4. One does not have to buy higher octane Gas. Check the manual and stick with it. (Some older vehicle may knock you may try to use a higher octane but calculate the cost difference of fixing verses buying higher Octane)
5. Most of the 10 minute Oil Change will use generic engine oil and may not exactly match the manufacture’s manual. Please avoid generic oil. My car needs 5W20 and 10 minute oil change always replaces with 5W30. One reason is, it’s cheap and second ignorance. 5W30 costs me 1.5-2 miles per gallon of gas! Also you may not need High priced synthetic oil as the engine may not be able to take advantage of it. (Some turbo charged engines needs such oil)
6. Drive as if you are going for vacation and you have ample of time on hand. Start from home may be 5-10 minutes early.
7. DO NOT tailgate. Brake is not a speed controller, it a vehicle stopper or slower to a great degree. If you find yourself brake every 30sec, you are too close! Calm down and let other people in and let them burn more gas!
8. Use Cruse control whenever you are comfortable with. (some cars may not have this feature) You may be able to save additional 1-1.5 miles per gallon. Also, try to look ahead even through the vehicle’s windshield in front of you to better judge your next move.
9. Do not be happy if you achieved the manufacture’s gas mileage rating. (Check their testing parameters if possible) You may achieve better! My Midsize car 112 thousand miles on was rated 30-31 miles a gallon on highway, have given me initially 32 and now it’s around 34.3/gallon (single handed driving).
10. Follow Speed limit and if situation permits add another 4miles/hr. Above 45miles/hr (average design in most cars/suv) most of the gas you are burning is just to overcome the drag from the air and not the road and mechanical friction and it increases square the speed. If you double the speed you need four times the amount gas to maintain that speed.
11. Hybrid vehicles are good but only for the right driving conditions. If one drives mostly on highway buys a hybrid vehicle, the total cost in excess plus extra maintenance for the hybrid model may exceed the gas savings over the usable life of the vehicle.
12. Some of the mid-full size cars are advertised for higher fuel economy. BE AWARE, the engine may have ample of power but to achieve fuel economy the gearbox is set to change gear before optimal speed and hence may overload engine just after gear change and will slow you down a lot on going uphill or when you need the most. You will notice that you are giving full gas but it not accelerating.
13. Keep clean. It looks good and reduces drag a little.
14. Turn off unnecessary power consuming devises including running headlights at day time without any reason.
15. Check Tire Pressure every month! It will give you optimum drive and handling quality and save gas.
16. You do not have to warm the engine for 15minutes! Most of the engines from 60’s are direct fuel Injection and the recent once are microprocessor controlled and that can compensate starting on a cold weather. One can only help the engine by driving first 1-2 miles little slower.
17. Clean air filter. More the surface more the air flow! Buy/Change accordingly and do not always go by the dealer.
18. Fuel Additives. Do not add unless you really need it. If you are going for a long ride you may add because it may work well. If the engine is hot it’s okay else you will find black deposits in the combustion chamber and will do more harm than good. Some of the major brands adds different types of additives (not the type you can buy in a regular auto store) that helps clean the system in long run.
19. Neutral is also another option! Whenever you are on red light and expect to stop for more that 30sec, put the gear from drive to neutral. Remember to change the time to move. You may notice when you put the gear to neutral the engine noise reduces and that means less gas usage!
20. Tires! There is always an alternative to the OEM tires and sometimes they are better. Some of the OEM tires may have thinner tire walls only to reduce cost and achieve a bit of the Gas mileage performance over their competitor. Some tire may not be so easily available (order online) may be better suited for your local driving conditions and be safer and also energy efficient. I saved $42 per tire by not replacing with the dealer suggested OEM tires and it’s more comfortable.
21. DO NOT put anything on top of your vehicle unless you have no space inside. Also remove any extra weight such as the things that you bought but never got time/need to unload from the vehicle. I have seen ski equipment carrier on top of an empty mini van in all summer. Any outward items will cause more drag and will cost mileage.

Co-Owner of:
1. 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan SE 26miles/gallon
2. 2001 Honda Accord LX 34.3miles/gallon