Following these fuel-saving tips on the road will translate directly to money saved at the pump.
ILLUSTRATION: FOTOLIA/PATRIMONIO DESIGNS
With today's gasoline crisis in mind, MOTHER EARTH NEWS' editors have compiled a list of 25 of what we feel are probably the simplest—yet most effective—ways of conserving fuel while you travel. The two dozen and one fuel-saving tips that follow—if properly observed—can only save you driving dollars, since they're designed to modify your motoring habits (rather than suggest you buy expensive add-on equipment) to increase your miles-per-gallon figure.
Of course, our listing is far from all-inclusive ... but it does represent a fair sampling of economy driving techniques that should get you farther down the road on a given amount of fuel, no matter what kind of auto you own.
Press the accelerator down slowly when you're starting off from a dead stop, and try to avoid pushing the pedal more than 1/4 of its full travel whenever possible. This practice will allow the carburetor to operate at its peak fuel efficiency ... because it avoids bringing the fuel mixer's gasoline-gulping power valve into play.
Keep your windows closed when you drive, especially when you're traveling at highway speeds. Air drag—caused by open windows—can reduce mileage by as much as 10%.
Inflate tires to their maximum recommended limit. The slightly softer ride gained by keeping those rubber "shoes" cushiony can play havoc with gasoline mileage. Also, if you're in the market for new tires, consider a radial-ply design—or at least a larger-diameter tire—since such items are proven fuel-savers.
Always obey the 55-MPH speed limit. Actually, whenever you drive above 40 miles per hour, you not only consume extra fuel (because the engine is turning at an increased rate of speed) but also waste additional gasoline by forcing your auto to overcome more wind resistance.
Try to maintain a steady road speed. Unnecessary slowing down and speeding up turns your car's carburetor into a "fuel hog". The best way to maintain constant forward momentum is to avoid tailgating ... thus giving yourself a chance to "think ahead" in traffic and maneuver accordingly.
Time your driving to avoid getting "caught" by stoplights. On many boulevards, traffic control signals are purposely scheduled to the motorist's advantage ... so that by traveling at the correct—and steady—speed, he or she will have a green light all the way!
If you are stuck in a stop-and-go driving situation (or if you encounter traffic lights that are unusually long), you can save gasoline by shifting your automatic transmission to neutral when the car is at a standstill. This practice will not only allow the transmission to cool, but will make it easier for the engine to turn, as well.
Don't allow your car to idle for more than a minute. If you know that you'll be sitting in one spot for longer than 60 seconds, shut the car's engine off.
When driving a manual-shift vehicle, change to a higher gear as soon as possible ... but don't overdo it, as this will cause the engine to "lug," resulting in premature wear.
Keep your feet on the floor when you're not using the foot pedals. By resting your shoe on the brake or the clutch while you drive, you're not only wearing out mechanical components, but also decreasing your engine's fuel economy without realizing it.
Shop around for different gasolines. Some autos run better—and more economically—on certain brands. Given an equal price, go with the gasoline that seems to work best in your car.
Be certain your vehicle is in top mechanical condition at all times. Keep it tuned and periodically check its points, plugs, and especially air filter ... to see if the components are in good condition. Don't neglect your car's suspension and chassis parts, either, since a misalignment (or a bent wheel rim or axle) is both unsafe and uneconomical.
Don't let your engine idle for long periods of time when warming it up, even on cold mornings. Modern cars usually require only about a minute's worth of running— at the most —before they can be driven in wintertime temperatures. Make sure, too, that the automatic choke is steadily disengaging (as it should) while the engine warms to its operating temperature.
Purchase your gasoline during the coolest times of the day, when the liquid is densest. Since fuel is sold by volume, the pump will register the same in heat or cool, but you'll actually be getting a more concentrated gallon when you fill up in the chilly hours of early morning or late evening.
Whenever you can, park your car in such a position that you won't have to back up when you're ready to leave. Reversing to back out is just an extra maneuver that—of course—uses extra gasoline.
Drive in a straight line whenever possible. Choose the route that offers the fewest corners and curves, and— when motoring on the highway—avoid switching lanes continually.
If you're in the market for a new car, remember this: Vinyl tops and sunroofs reduce mileage, since these accessories tend to disturb the otherwise smooth flow of air across the roof panel.
When carrying extra loads in your car, try to distribute the weight as evenly as possible throughout the vehicle. By piling a lot of weight in the trunk, you force the front end of the car upward, creating more surface area and increased wind resistance.
Avoid pressing the accelerator to the floor when climbing hills if you possibly can. You will, of course, lose momentum by going "easy" on the pedal ... but if you can still maintain a safe speed, do so and save gasoline.
Don't "rev" your car's engine prior to shutting it off. This practice wastes fuel and washes oil from the cylinder walls to boot.
During the icy winter season, always scrape the snow from your auto before starting the engine and driving off. Such frozen moisture not only offers additional wind resistance, but can add a hundred pounds or more to your vehicle's total weight!
Use your auto's accessories—such as air conditioning, heater fan, and power windows or seats—as little as possible, since they all draw energy from the car's engine and battery.
Don't leave snow tires on your car any longer than necessary ... their tread design makes them incorrigible fuel-wasters.
Refrain from driving on rough surfaces whenever you can. Dirt or gravel roads can rob you of up to 30% of your gasoline mileage.
Don't overfill your fuel tank, but do try to keep it on the "high" side as a rule. A gasoline tank that's filled over capacity will slosh its load onto the street, and dribble when the liquid expands with heat. On the other hand, a fairly well-filled fuel reservoir will minimize evaporation losses. The best practice is to fill your tank up to the first "click" of an automatic fuel nozzle.