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$4 A Gallon, Here We Go Again!

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On: Fri, Apr 6, 2012 at 9:57AM | By: Chuck Arehart

$4 A Gallon, Here We Go Again!

It's baaaaaaack. Gasoline at four bucks a gallon. We've been there before and you've seen tons of articles about saving fuel and where you can buy it the cheapest to save a couple pennies per gallon. Yes, I will address some of that, but maybe it will help you think about it differently.

Let me get the tips to save fuel out of the way:

1) Make sure your tires are PROPERLY inflated. I emphasize properly because some drivers pump their tires to the pressure on the sidewall of the tire. That's the maximum recommended pressure while running at maximum load. How often do you do that? Never. So follow the recommended pressure on the sticker which is usually found on the door frame. If you can't find it, any service shop should be happy to point it out to you. Over-inflating tires will raise fuel economy but it will adversely affect handling and braking, especially in wet weather. Stick to the recommended pressures.

2) Drive smart. That means no full throttle acceleration or jumping on the brakes. Watch traffic so you aren't on and off the throttle. Remember the smooth driving techniques they taught you in driver's ed? There's a reason for it. It saves fuel, it's safer and it's easier on the car. You only need to accelerate from a dead stop quickly enough to keep up with traffic and not be in the way. Anticipate what other traffic is doing. Delivery truck drivers are taught this and even race car drivers are taught to be smooth. It really does make a difference. If you own a manual transmission car, you may be able to skip gears. Start in first, accelerate normally and go to third, hold that gear for a bit then go to fifth. You won't be on the accelerator as much in city traffic and any time you're not accelerating you're saving fuel. It will take some practice to figure out your new shift points but it can be done. Granted, it won't save a lot of fuel but it's easier on the clutch too because you aren't engaging it as much. I've made clutches last well over 150,000 miles.

3) Rethink your driving. Think about all your errands for one day and get them done all at once. Can you get many things at one store instead of different stores to reduce driving? Is a store close enough to walk to? It's the short trips that add up and kill fuel mileage. Consolidate or reduce them and walk or ride Junior's bike whenever possible.

4) Make sure your engine is running correctly. Any car built in the last 15-20 years has modern fuel injection so there are no tune-ups. But old spark plugs and a clogged air filter can hurt fuel mileage. If they haven't been replaced in the last five years or so, replace them. It's an easy job on a lot of cars and you may be able to do it yourself or have a friend who is knowledgeable about car repair do it.

5) Lighten up! Remove unneeded junk from the trunk. Extra weight is more work for the engine, and that burns more fuel.

While tips can help you save a few bucks, we are at a time in fuel price history (and have been for a while) where you really need to think about your driving life.

Don't be a lemming. There are smart phone apps that find the cheapest gas in your area. You have to ask yourself, "What is the true savings of gas that's up to ten cents per gallon cheaper if it's three miles (one-way) out of my way? Considering the additional driving burns more fuel, adds wear and tear on your car and exposes yourself to more traffic increasing your risk of someone hitting you while they are on their smartphone using an app to find cheap gas, it's not worth it. Add the time element and the return on investment is even less.

Let's say you're in the market for a new car, have you ever considered a diesel? Diesel fueled cars get 25-30 percent better fuel mileage than their gasoline counterparts and as of this writing, diesel fuel is right at the same $4/gallon in metro Detroit. In recent years, I've seen gas prices surpass that of diesel, and diesel prices tend not to fluctuate as wildly.

Hybrids are interesting cars and they get better fuel mileage than a conventional gasoline-only powertrain, but I have to wonder about the costs of long-term ownership. You have to realize that a hybrid is a combination of two powertrains and the result is an increased number of components. You'll have the regular maintenance and upkeep of the gas-fueled side, but then there are components for the electric drivetrain as well. Batteries, voltage regulators, internal switches, connectors and regenerative braking components can all go bad at some point in time. If you are thinking about purchasing a hybrid do your research on ownership costs. Talk to friends who own one, compare manufacturers’ warranties. You might want to consider leasing as sort of an ownership test to see what living with a hybrid is like.

What vehicle do you really need? If you're car shopping it's easy to get sucked in to the sweet deals on bigger vehicles you really don't need. If you have only two kids, do you really need the bigger cross-over vehicle with third-row seating? If you don't haul or tow anything, do you really need a pickup truck or SUV with a V8? If you can comfortably afford it, that's your business. But people who bought Jeeps because it made them feel cool and gas was $2.50 a gallon at the time may not feel so cool now. How will they feel if gas hits $5/gallon?

Let's face it. The price of oil drives nearly everything in our daily economy, but you can do things to make it more tolerable in your own life.


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