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Fuel Saving Tips

A customer once asked us if we could fix his Ford Expedition so it would get 35 mpg. We told him that we were not God, and he should get a smaller car! That having been said, there are many things you can do to maximize the mileage you get in whatever vehicle you drive. You have likely heard much of this elsewhere but take a look. You might find something new.

  1. In our experience, driving style and conditions have the biggest influence on fuel economy. Here is the basic rule to think about when trying to maximize fuel economy while driving: avoid using your brakes! Every time you step on the brake pedal, energy that was produced by burning fuel is wasted in the form of heat energy. Your brakes stop your car by converting the kinetic energy of its motion into heat energy, which simply wafts up into the atmosphere.

    Leave more space between you and the car in front especially on the freeway. If you have more space, you can avoid using the brakes, slow your car down less, and thus have to burn less fuel to get back up to speed. Plus you are way less likely to hit somebody or be hit by somebody if you are slowing down slower.

  2. Watch your speed. We have a customer that regularly drives the same long distance route each weekend. He has found that if he slows down from 75 mph to 65 mph he gains 3 mpg. If he slows to just under 60 mph he gains 7 mpg! You may have seen this guy out on the road. Please be patient -- he's just trying to save a buck. He assures us he's not doing 60 mpg in the fast lane.

  3. Keep your tires fully inflated. We're not talking about the pressure that is recommended by the vehicle manufacturer but rather the pressure indicated on the sidewall of the tire itself. It is not uncommon to find the vehicle specification for tire pressure to be significantly lower than the pressure indicated on the tire. If you run your tires at the pressure indicated on the tire they will run cooler, have less rolling resistance, last longer, and your vehicle will get better mileage. Just think about how much energy you have to put in to riding a bicycle with a low tire.

    You should check your tires when they are as cool as possible. The pressure inside the tire goes up with heat. Be warned however, adjusting your tires to this higher pressure may give you a noticeably rougher ride and DO NOT EVER INFLATE YOUR TIRES TO A PRESSURE HIGHER THAN WHAT IS INDICATED ON THE TIRE.

    Speaking of tire inflation, you may have been given the opportunity to pay some extra money to have your tires inflated with nitrogen. Our opinion is that this is a waste of money. It is true that nitrogen inflated tires do not experience as much temperature-related pressure change, but an increase in pressure of one or two psi will make no difference unless you are traveling at 198 mph at Talladega Super Speedway. Remember that the "free air" we use here at Jacoby Auto Electronic & Service contains roughly 78.08% nitrogen already.

  4. Maintain your vehicle at least as often as the manufacturer recommends. Doing the service at the suggested interval will help you get the best mileage possible. A dirty air filter, worn out spark plugs, engine valves out of adjustment, or a sluggish oxygen sensor will decrease your fuel economy.

  5. Pick Up truck owners: it is commonly thought that driving with your tailgate down reduces drag and saves gas. We're not sure if this is true, however this theory was tested on the Discovery Channel program called "Mythbusters." Their experiments concluded that the exact opposite is true: you get better mileage with the tailgate up!

  6. What about all those additives and gadgets marketed to improve fuel economy? In our experience, most of it is hogwash. Save your money and buy your spouse some flowers. You'll get way more mileage out of that.

  7. Don't drive around with your "Check Engine" Light on. This light is telling you something is wrong and you could be wasting a lot of fuel.

  8. Everyone knows that driving with your A/C on uses more gas. Not everyone may know that when you set your A/C controls to defrost your front windshield, your A/C comes on in most vehicles. This is because in addition to cooling the air, your A/C also dehumidifies the air. The clear water you often see dripping out of your vehicle when the A/C has been on is moisture that has been condensed out of the air. If you only run your defroster when the windows are fogged up and remember to turn it off after they have cleared, you will save fuel.

  9. Avoid idling whenever possible. When the engine is on and the car is not moving you are getting 0 mpg. It is true that when you start your engine, the fuel injection spits a bit more fuel in than normal but these days the extra fuel required for start up is minimal. If it is going to idle for more than a minute, shut it off.

  10. Your car does not need to "warm up" before you drive it. When the engine is cold it is burning more fuel than just about any other time. Modern fuel injected cars are designed to be driven immediately after start up. Our advice is to start it up and go. If you are concerned about warming up your engine, just drive gently for the first few minutes. If your car has to be warmed up before it will run right, something is wrong with it. Call us and make an appointment.

  11. Don't waste your money buying high octane fuel. We have been told that lower octane fuel actually burns more efficiently. Unless your owner's manual states that a specific octane level must be used to preserve the warranty, or you hear your engine pinging or knocking, buy the lowest octane fuel you can find.

  12. Ethanol: many people are driving around in vehicles designed to be run on regular gas or E85 ethanol and don't even know it. We don't know if using E85 will save you any money, but it will cut down the use of traditional gasoline. Make sure your vehicle is designed to run on E85 before using it. It shouldn't be too much of a problem, however, because as far as we've been able to determine there are only four E85 filling stations in California.

  13. Shed the extra pounds: extra cargo that you don't need in your car wastes gas. Empty your trunk of those golf clubs, the 6 cases of bottled water you bought at Costco, dead bodies and the like, and you will save gas.

  14. "What a drag!" If you have one of those handy cargo carriers attached to the top of your vehicle, take it off if possible when you don't need it. The aerodynamic drag it creates is costing you money.