Monday, September 21, 2015

Saving fuel costs

This post is slightly off-topic but any money you can save in one area can be used to buy more in another area. This weekend I rented a car to drive to a wedding 660 miles away. I didn't want to put the miles on my car, which already has 109,000 plus miles. I wanted a larger car than what I own for a more comfortable and safe drive. I rented a Nissan Altima.  I cannot be sure but considering how much power it had I believe it was the six cylinder motor.  

So what I want to talk about is Hyper-miling techniques. Hyper-miling is a term that was coined quite a few years ago to describe the tricks used to get the highest mileage possible out of your car. I started using the more conservative, basic methods about ten years ago. Using the easiest techniques I was able to routinely get 24 mpg out of my 1992 Ford Explorer. The Explorer was rated at 16 mpg, when new, and mine was 17 years old.

One the way to the wedding, I had two days to drive so I could take my time and enjoy the ride. I decided to see how high I could get my mileage on the trip so I applied the normal hyper-mileage techniques I routinely use and was able to reach an average of 43 mpg. The car is rated for 31 mpg. So that is a significant improvement. What difference does that make? Well, on a 660 mile trip it is something like this:

660 divided by 43 = 15.35 gallons. At $2.25 a gallon = $34.50
660 divided by 31 = 21.25 gallons. At $2.25 a gallon = $47.90

What are some of these techniques I use? Read below.

1. Keep the car tuned up. Properly running cars are more efficient and produce less pollution. A regular schedule of maintenance for you car is the first step to even having a car with which you can hyper-mile.

2. Use performance parts when you can. High performance spark plugs, for example, like iridium-tipped "performance" spark plugs create a larger combustion spark which contributes to fuller, more efficient burn in the combustion chamber. This provides slightly more power, better fuel efficiency and lower emissions. There are also low restriction air intakes and exhausts that greatly improve power and efficiency.

3. Align and balance the wheels. Being out of alignment causes additional rolling friction and reduces mileage. The tires will also wear down unevenly requiring early replacement.

4. Check tire pressure regularly. If the tires are incorrectly inflated, then there will be excess drag, or insufficient surface contact with the road, causing significant decreases in fuel efficiency.

5.  Take everything you don't need out of your car. The more weight you're carrying, the harder the engine has to work. 

6. Drive as if you don't have brakes — coast as much as possible. Plan ahead so that you aren't required to brake very much. Careful coasting will reduce your gas usage. Braking always wastes gas.

7. Accelerate as if there is an egg between your foot and the gas pedal. Unless there is an emergency, keep your RPMs below 3,000. 

8. Gather speed on level roads or while going down hill. Let gravity do some of the work for your engine.

9. Use momentum to get over small hills. Bleed off speed and slowly lose speed as you climb up and over the hill. It there is a downhill on the other side, start coasting even before you crest the hill. Your momentum will carry you over.

10. Time lights so that you can move through them without stopping. Even rolling forward slowly when the light turns green will help you avoid inertia. Starting to move forward from a dead stop uses far more gas than if you are already slowly moving forward.

11. Plan routes so that you only take right turns. This reduces the time you are sitting still at a light; burning gas but not moving anywhere.

12. Try to run all your errands at one time. A warmed up engine gets better mileage than a cold engine. Drive to the farest away place first and then work your way back home.

13. DO NOT idle your car to warm it up in the morning, that wastes a tremendous amount of gas.

14. Be careful with using Cruise Control. Cruise control's sole purpose is to keep you car at a certain speed. If the road is mountainous or hilly, it will shift down to a lower gear to maintain speed. The best mileage is obtained by staying in the highest gear possible for as long as possible.

15. As much as possible, stop/park your car facing down hill. Pulling out from a dead stop AND accelerating uphill is a double gas waster.

16. Drafting. Drafting is the technique of following a moving vehicle close enough that the air pushed out of the way by the vehicle in front of yours lowers the air resistance for your car. This is the same technique used by race car drivers and Canada Geese flying in the V formation. There is a great deal of danger involved with this technique because to be successful you have to stay within 2-3 car-lengths behind the other vehicle. Don't do it unless you can devote 100% of your attention to watching the other vehicle. 

17. Limit use of your air conditioner. I run it when going down hill and turn it off when going up hill. Air Conditioners put additional strain on a motor, especially smaller, lower horsepower motors.

18. Open your windows for cooling up to 40 mph. Much above 40 mph and the added wind resistance is worse than running the air conditioning.

19. Keep your speed down. Different cars get their best mileage at different speeds. The sound of the engine will give you a good idea. If it sounds like it is running hard, then it is. Generally, staying below 60 mph is best.

20. Park so that you can pull out without having to back up first. Any movement that is not in the direction you need to go is wasteful. Pull through parking spots so that you are facing out.

These are the more conservative methods and you can expect to gain at least 24% mpg with practice. That can effectively reduce fuel costs by a corresponding 24%.

Drive smart, drive safe.

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