Eco-Saturday: Curb your car’s appetite

We get killer mileage on our road trips.
We get killer mileage on our road trips, including this one — to Bedford, Pa., to see the World’s Largest Coffee Pot — a few years ago.

We love road trips. Mother Road, Loneliest Road, Pacific Coast Highway, Devil’s Highway, Lincoln Highway, Blues Highway, Great River Road — you name it, we’ve probably driven part of it. We don’t fly to our destinations. We drive, because the journey is half the fun. More than half, actually, and you miss a lot of kitsch when you fly over it.

We couldn’t afford to drive all over creation if we didn’t choose our vehicles wisely and care for them properly.

Here are some quick tips to boost your gas mileage:

1. If you’re considering a new car, look for the most fuel-efficient vehicle that meets your needs, and don’t let Madison Avenue talk you into buying something bigger or fancier just to keep up with the Joneses.

2. Keep an eye on your gas mileage. It’s easy to do: Just reset your trip odometer the next time you fill your tank. Then, each time you refill the tank, divide the number of miles on the odometer by the number of gallons it took to refill the tank, then reset the odometer again. Do this every time you fill up, and you’ll be able to tell right away if your mileage drops or rises suddenly. In addition to giving you an idea of how various conditions affect your gas mileage, this will give you a heads-up about mechanical problems. A sudden drop in gas mileage can be a signal that something is wrong under the hood, and it probably warrants a trip to the dealership to see what’s going on. A lot of problems are cheaper and less hassle to fix if you catch them early.

3. Check your tire pressure. Underinflated tires will drag down your gas mileage.

4. Replace your air filter regularly. A dirty air filter can compromise your mileage.

5. Change your spark plugs. Old spark plugs can reduce your mpgs.

6. Ditch the flag. There’s nothing patriotic about sending more money to foreign oil producers, but that’s exactly what you’re doing when you attach flags to your car. A flag mounted to a car’s window or antenna acts as a sail, adding drag and increasing the amount of energy it takes to propel the vehicle forward. If you want to show your patriotism or your team spirit, do it with a bumper sticker or a custom paint job — not a piece of fabric that’s knocking down your gas mileage.

These aren’t the only ways to boost your car’s fuel efficiency (I’ll get into “hypermiling” — mileage-boosting driving techniques — in a future post), but they’re quick, easy and can make a significant impact with minimal effort.


2 thoughts on “Eco-Saturday: Curb your car’s appetite”

  1. I wish all cars came equipped with the instant mileage read-out that our last two cars have had. Makes a big difference.

  2. It really ought to be mandatory. The Insight had one, and it completely altered the way I drove. After a while, even in other cars, I could sort of see the mileage minder in my head and would adjust my driving accordingly.

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