With gasoline prices still perilously near the $3 mark in much of the country, there are ways you can keep the fuel pumps at bay just a little longer. Indeed, you’ve probably read about one or more of them right here, but, here’s an interesting twist, try making a game out of it.
Fuel Economy Readout
Here’s what I mean. Our Chevrolet is equipped with a fuel economy readout. Part of the electronic control system of the car (ECU), it’s the type that you can reset to zero whenever you would like to, but doing that would be cheating, so we’ll leave that ability out of this mix for a moment with the exception of the start of this game.
The game is called “Beat The Economy Meter” and it involves some driving techniques that will likely drive people who ride regularly with you a little nutty, but when you’ve stretched the gas refill an extra 50 or 100 miles or more (highway driving is a real saver, if you do it right) and you’ve saved the $10 or so that you can (I’m estimating because it depends on your car, how you drive, the average price of gas and so on) and you’ve passed the gas station that extra time or two, you can begin to see the game’s value and point it out to those who may be chafing that “you’re not driving fast enough (real quote, source will remain unnamed to protect me)!”
How the Game is Played
The gist of the game is this:
1. Fill up your car
2. Reset the fuel economy readout to 0
3. Pay for your gas
4. Drive away
5. Always drive slowly, at or below the limit, and accelerate slowly, avoiding the use of your car’s brakes
6. Continue to drive as if there were an egg under the accelerator
7. Do not cheat and reset the economy meter once you’ve zeroed it
The rules are pretty simple and there are tangible results. Here’s our last shopping run yesterday. When we left the house, the fuel economy readout was at 25.2 mpg. Our first stop involved about a 10-mile run to a neighboring town and I kept our speed down to about 25 mpg (don’t laugh) and I kept the speed steady, as well. As we drove along, I began to see the economy readout moving up, not down.
About halfway there we were at 25.6 mpg, which isn’t bad, now, is it? When we arrived at our first stop, the fuel economy was approaching 25.9 mpg, so I knew my strategy was working (the passenger was chafing a bit at the speed, but what can you do?).
We actually had several stops that were relatively close together and we still had to stop and start at each location, however, as we pulled away, rather than jumping on the gas, as I have been known to do in the past, I just pulled away at a leisurely pace (remember the egg and accelerator approach) and then we turned north and headed toward the market for our shopping.
This is a Game that Works
The distance between our market and our home is still a little over a mile and so we still had that one more bit of driving to do, over some streets that include long waits at lights and then long waits to turn. So, what were the results? Honestly, I was able to raise our fuel economy to 26.6 mpg (we did have to long legs in our trip that raised the average), but it’s still something, isn’t it?
Going green is great; living green is great; but it doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you have in the name of greenness. You can still have a gasoline-powered car and, if you drive it right, you can still save on gasoline.
The Usual Tips
Of course, you still should:
• Make sure your car is properly tuned up
• Make sure the tires are properly inflated
• Make sure your car is oiled and lubed about every 3,000 miles (or at least according to the manufacturer’s recommendations; we just happen to like 3,000 miles)
• Make sure your car is mechanically sound – a dragging brake will, of course, use more gasoline, as will a vehicle that needs an alignment (think of trying to push a wheelbarrow with a bent wheel; it takes a lot more effort than pushing a wheelbarrow with a straight wheel; this is perhaps the best way to describe the need for an alignment)
• Make sure your car’s air conditioning system is tuned up and working correctly and make sure the shutdown circuit (if your car is equipped with one) is working correctly (some a/c systems actually shutdown in some situations – when the interior temperature is reached, if your car is in traffic)
• Make sure your car is clean and shiny (it really doesn’t enhance mileage; well maybe your car is a tad more slippery as you drive but a nice shiny car makes us feel good)This list is by no means comprehensive and I am sure that others play the same game I do. It’s just that I’ve never heard of anyone using – or admitting – they use the economy readout this way. How much can you ultimately save? It just depends on how low you can go and get away with it before your family mutinies.
(Sources: Author’s experience, family comments)