How to Save Money on Fuel
October 5, 2011
Getting into the habit of saving on fuel now will mean you’ll be ready when prices start hitting the $4.00-gallon mark once again. You don’t have to buy a new, fuel-efficient car, either. No one wants to trade a fuel bill for a car payment, so take a look at our top 5 ways to save on fuel and you may just be able to pocket a little extra money at the end of the month.
1. Change Your Driving Style
While this is hands down the biggest thing you can do to save on fuel, it’s also the hardest. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys the rush of hard acceleration, typically runs 10 mph over the speed limit and brakes abruptly, we’ve got bad news: you’re hurting your vehicle’s fuel economy, and your wallet, in a big way. Depending on the kind of vehicle you drive and just how extreme you are with the throttle and brake, tempering your driving style can up your vehicle’s fuel economy by more than 5 mpg. That’s a serious bump. Scaling back the speed by just 5 mph means you’ll also see an increase in fuel economy.
2. Use the Correct Fuel Grade
Premium grade fuel doesn’t mean it’s aged like fine wine or any cleaner than regular or mid-grade. The name is simply an easy way for fuel companies to communicate the different octane levels among its offerings. If you’ve been pumping premium into your tank for years and your vehicle doesn’t require it, you’ve been throwing your money right out the window. Experts say you should use the lowest octane rating you can get away with so long as your vehicle doesn’t knock. Basically, knock describes what happens when your fuel ignites before it should inside of your engine. Higher octane fuels contain special ingredients to keep the fuel from igniting under higher pressures. So, if your vehicle isn’t knocking, step down a grade. Finding the right octane for your car could put as much as an extra dollar per gallon in your pocket.
3. Lose the Weight
If your trunk is full to the brim with treasures of the past five years of your life and your backseat looks like a recycling center exploded inside, you’re spending more than you should on fuel. Simply put, the more weight an engine has to move around, the more fuel it requires. As the pounds add up inside of your vehicle, your fuel economy goes down. Keeping your interior clean and free of any unnecessary burdens will go a long way toward seeing better performance at the pump. How much better? That depends on the kind of vehicle you drive, but on average you can expect an improvement of 2-5 mpg, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
4. Keep Up With Your Maintenance
If you think changing your oil regularly and keeping up with the rest of your engine’s maintenance doesn’t impact your fuel economy, think again. As your oil ages, it thickens, and that makes your engine work harder with every revolution. What’s more, neglecting parts like your vehicle’s oxygen sensor can trick your car into thinking it needs more fuel than it actually does. It’s impossible to say just how much keeping up with your vehicle’s maintenance can improve your fuel economy, but doing so will keep those mpgs as close to what they were from the factory as possible as your vehicle ages.
5. Mind Those Tires
Keeping your hard-earned dollars out of the tank is easier than you might think.
By Zach Bowman, DriverSide Contributing Editor
Finally, take a good look at your vehicle’s tires. First, make sure they’re properly inflated. A low tire makes your vehicle that much harder to push down the road, requiring more and more fuel. Second, make sure everything’s wearing evenly. Uneven wear usually means something is out of adjustment on your suspension and your tires aren’t rolling straight down the road. If one or more tire is out of alignment, the car may actually be fighting itself as you drive, meaning your engine is working harder than it should. Finally, decide if the type of tires you have on your vehicle are really what you need. Just because you have a big truck doesn’t mean it requires 7-ply mud-terrain rubber. Going with a lighter, more street-savvy tire can save you big bucks in both cost and fuel economy. Most tire companies even offer low-rolling resistance tires that can contribute as much as 1-2 mpg compared to their counterparts.