Mario Andretti in a CART race at Laguna Seca i...

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Continuing with my mini series on Saving Money on Gasoline

There are many ways you can cut your fuel costs.  In my last post I only focused upon how to save on getting the fuel into your vehicle.  In this blog post I will focus on using that fuel to the fullest by concentrating on driving habits.  Yes we all have them.  Bad ones and good ones.   A few of us think we are the new Mario Andretti‘s of the world, and a few of us drive like we got our license from a box of Cracker Jack.  All in all, the way you drive is where most of your fuel gets consumed, so the type of driving also matters a lot.

The California Highway Patrol used to recommend leaving a 2 second gap between the car in front of you, lately I have heard it is 4 seconds!  That’s a good distance to prevent accidents and also to save gas!  There is no reason to try to “draft” behind someone on the freeway, you will not save that much gas compared to the danger you are putting yourself and the person in front of you in.  The reason I mention this is that you should always try to keep your car moving and use as little breaking as possible to get the most of your fuel.

Leaving a gap of 2 to 4 seconds lets you slow your car when you see break lights ahead, without the sudden stopping that is common the freeways of today.  Letting your car slow to the traffic ahead or to the next red light wastes less fuel.  Everyone seems to tailgate and everyone is in a hurry to get the one car length ahead of each other.  This is a major waste of fuel.  The fuel used to propel your car should be used to it’s fullest to get the best mileage from your vehicle.

Jackrabbit starts and stops waste a ton of energy! You should start off slowly and accelerate slowly also.  I am not talking a snails pace but not jamming on the gas to beat the other person to the next red light either.  When you accelerate too fast you waste fuel, and when stopping fast you lose all the built up momentum.  Therefore, you waste fuel! This is the basic reason cars get such bad mileage in town as opposed to on the freeways.  Lots of stop and go at lights and stop signs. So here is a tip or two on how to try to save yourself some expense and get a bit better mileage.

AUTOMATICS:  If you have an automatic transmission and your car is completely stopped at a light or sign, you should allow the car to move forward using the idle speed power that is already there, before you give it gas.  A vehicle weighs a lot and to get it moving from a stopped position takes a lot of energy.  Once it’s moving it takes less energy to keep it moving.  So just allowing your car to creep forward on it’s own for a second after you release the break pedal will save you some of the energy needed to get the car up to speed.  This of course doesn’t work on hills, you will have to give it gas! 😦

MANUALS:  If you have a manual transmission and your car is completely stopped at a light or sign, well… your car may or may not move forward when you let off the brake – depends on the incline of the road, it may even roll backwards.. so you have to take caution into your hands when doing this with a manual transmission, but most of the time you will find that you will roll forward, unless on a hill…. So if you can let your car roll forward before letting out the clutch. If on a hill, just start off as slow as you can.

SHIFTING: If you own an automatic, it will shift on it’s own. I recommend using the cruise control as much as possible when on the freeway. It can save up to 6% of your fuel. But to get up to speed, you should accelerate slowly and safely. (Safety note: Always enter the freeway at the speed of traffic and not a much slower speed or much faster speed.) If you own a manual transmission, this is how I do it… I use my tachometer, at 70 mph, in 5th gear my vehicle is at about 2800 rpms. I use this as my shifting rpm for all gears.. winding the engine out to almost redline is silly and wasteful. I just shift when the vehicle is at or near 2800 rpms and it works well to get me up to speed at a decent rate of acceleration. So figure out what rpm your vehicle runs at when you are at cruising speed and use that as a guideline. If you don’t have a tachometer, well let’s just say don’t wind out the motor til it’s screaming to shift.. Be consistent in the way you shift or accelerate.

Tailgating: This is a big pet peeve of mine. Why are you tailgating? Are you stupid? Do you want to hurt yourself or others? Or just play bumper cars with that car in front of you? You are accelerating and putting on the brakes constantly when you tailgate, because you can’t maintain a constant speed. You are constantly in the jackrabbit mode, which wastes a ton of fuel. You waste your cars built up energy when you brake and waste more when you have to accelerate again to catch back up the persons bumper you are crowding. Allow that space of 2 to 4 seconds between you and the car in front of you that I talked about earlier. If you can’t do that much, then leave at least the space for a big rig to fit in between you and the car in front of you. If someone is in your way, plan how to get around them, by changing lanes BEFORE you get caught up to them. Use your brain, in other words. I see so many rear end collisions in my travels around Southern California, and I drive to a lot of different places. There are at least one or two every day when I am going or coming from work. Why? Tailgating! It wastes fuel… no you aren’t “drafting” like a race car you fool, you are are endangering your life and the people in front of you as well as those around you.  If you want to race, go try out for NASCAR. Stop being rude and just go around the slower person or be patient and relax at the speed of traffic, keeping that safe distance behind the car in front of you.  Of course if you like expensive repairs to your car, love being without a car for weeks on end, bumming rides,having your insurance rates increase and putting a point or two on your driving record then ignore me!