Walking can reduce the gas pains of your next Big Mac attack.
Idling in drive-through lanes in this season of high-fuel prices is a no-no. Letting the motor run while going nowhere can reduce a vehicle's fuel economy, measured in miles per gallon, by as much as 20 percent, according to oil industry and government fuel economy studies.
That's just one of several very easy ways to make your gas go farther, especially as people prepare this Memorial Day weekend for the unofficial start of the summer vacation season. Hitting the roads, whether for a beach weekend or a cross-country expedition, can be daunting when gasoline prices in some places are more than $2 a gallon. But simple, commonsense actions can soften the blow to the wallet.
Unnecessary idling is wasteful any way you look at it. Actual losses vary with vehicle types and operating conditions. Idling in a big Ford Expedition or Chevrolet Tahoe sport-utility vehicle in hot weather with the air conditioner blowing and the sound system booming uses more gas than idling in mild weather in a Toyota Corolla compact sedan with the windows down and the radio off.
Save gas. Save money. Don't wait in line idling.
You might also clean your car, inside and out. That's because friction and weight reduce fuel economy, too.
You'll never get rid of all friction; and you'll certainly drive a car or truck that weighs something. The idea is to wipe off unnecessary friction and dump useless weight.
Vehicles move through air, which creates resistance, or drag. The smoother the surface, the lower the drag. The lower the drag, the better the fuel economy. Dirty, gunky surfaces move through air with more friction, more drag. Wash and wax your vehicle; and empty that trunk and cargo bay.
In addition, consider the friction between the road and your tires. Underinflated tires encounter more friction, which means they need more energy and fuel to move them over the road. More friction also means those tires will build up more heat, which can lead to a blowout. Routinely monitor your tire pressure. It can help save fuel, and possibly your life.
And speaking of drag, rolling the windows down to cool off during a long drive can actually use more gasoline than turning on the air conditioning. This "four-forty" cooling (opening four windows while traveling 40 mph) helps turn the car into a metal parachute because wind rushes into the front window and creates drag as it meets resistance in the back of the car. That causes the engine to work harder to move.
The weight issue is often overlooked by motorists. There are people who use their cars and trucks as rolling storage bins. That's fine, if all of the stuff being carted about is needed for work or, perhaps, medical reasons. It's wasteful if it's cluttering your trunk only because you are too lazy to take it out, properly store it, or throw it away. The more weight you carry, the more fuel it takes to move the vehicle.
There are so many things you can do to save fuel, there is no need to wring your hands over gasoline prices. Consider your driving habits. The supermarket is a mile from your house, you drive there -- and not just once in the same day. (I personally know someone, who will remain nameless to protect domestic harmony, who will visit the local store three times in one Saturday to get what the nameless person could have gotten the first time had the nameless person written a shopping list.)
So, make lists. Combine trips. Eliminate others. Walk about the neighborhood. Say, "Hi" to the neighbors. Who knows? It could be the start of community.
Just a few more things. Confine auto racing to sanctioned tracks. Racing about city streets and interstate highways not only wastes fuel, it also leads to crashes -- which wastes more fuel (spilled fuel on the highway, fuel used by ambulances and police vehicles to get to and from crash scenes, fuel used by aircraft to medically evacuate critically injured crash victims and, if you're very unlucky, fuel used to operate the vehicles in your funeral procession). Slow down. Improve your chances of getting there alive -- and solvent.
Also, as much as possible, check regional weather and road conditions before you take off. Getting stuck in long traffic jams on days that require air conditioning or heating also costs money. Plan your routes.
And this crazy business about pumping premium unleaded gasoline into cars or trucks designed to run on lower octane gasoline. Don't do it; and stop doing it if you've fallen into that moneywasting habit.
Generally, the octane rating is an expression of a gasoline's anti-knock quality, the fuel's ability to burn in an engine's combustion chamber without knocking or pinging. Most engines run quite well on lower octane gasolines.
But you don't have to think about any of that. Just read your owner's manual. If, as often is the case, lower octane gasoline is recommended, use it and be happy.
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