“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Whether you think our gas prices are soaring because of a conspiracy by the giant oil companies, speculators on Wall Street, OPEC, or plain old supply and demand, there’s not much you or I can do about it, other than vote for the candidates of our choice and pray. I thought it may be useful to suggest some things you can do about lowering your total cost of fuel even if you can’t lower gas and oil prices.
(1) Burn the lowest octane fuel you can in your car without causing a ping or a knock. Even if your car’s owner’s manual recommends high test, there’s a good chance you can drop down one or even two grades of octane and your engine will run just fine. There are a lot of factors that affect how your car runs on a particular grade of fuel like ambient temperature and ethanol content. You can even experiment by mixing octanes in your tank. Buying the lowest octane will save you several cents a gallon.
(2) Keep your tires inflated 2 or 3 pounds over the manufacturer’s recommendation and check their pressure at least once a month. You may get a little harder ride but you will improve your gas mileage by about 5%.
(3) Check the Internet for the lowest priced gas station in your neighborhood. My favorite Web site is http://gasprices.mapquest.com/. This site shows prices for all of the gas stations near your zip code from lowest to highest. It also shows a map with the location, name and address of the gas station. I just checked the prices from my zip code, 33403. The lowest price for regular was $3.84/gal for a Circle K on Military Trail and the highest was $4.25/gal for Sunoco in Palm Beach. That’s 41 cents per gallon difference! You can save $8.20 on a 20 gallon fill up!
(4) Drive slower. Do you remember how they lowered the speed limit on the turnpike during our last energy crunch to 55 mph? This was to save gasoline because you burn a lot more fuel at 70 mph than you do at 55.
(5) Learn how to drive your car for maximum fuel efficiency. It’s not uncommon for one of my customers to complain that they are not getting the gas mileage on their particular model Toyota that the EPA sticker on their car when they bought it says they should. We always check the mileage by having one of our technicians drive the car and measure the mileage. Usually the technician gets as good or getter gas mileage than the EPA mileage. This is simply because he is an expert at driving cars for maximum fuel efficiency. One of my technicians, Rick Kearney, tell our customers that the best thing they can do to improve their gas mileage is to “reach down and take the brick out of their shoe”. He suggests that you imagine there is an egg between your foot and the gas pedal. Anticipate stops and curves so that you don’t have to brake, but just take your foot off the gas pedal. For longer stops like waiting for a bridge to go up and down or a train to go by, turn off your engine.
(6) Check your wheel alignment and rotate and balance your tires every 6 months or 5,000 miles, which ever first occurs. The less friction between your tires and the road, the better your gas mileage will be. With all the potholes and road construction we have in South Florida, you can know your front end out of alignment without even realizing it. Just because you can’t notice a pull to one side doesn’t always mean your alignment is right. Misaligned wheels prevent your tires from rotating smoothly over the road surface. Rotating and balancing your tires assures even wear and smooth surface for your tires to roll on.
(7) Riding a bicycle and walking is good for your health. When was the last time you walked anywhere? When was the last time your road a bicycle? Here’s a great way to save gas and improve your health at the same time.
(8) Take the bus or the train. I always get angry when I see a Palm Tran bus on the road because there are usually very few people on board. I think I read that they average about 20% occupancy. That’s a huge waste of taxpayers’ money. South Floridians just prefer the convenience of their own cars, but for the sacrifice of a little convenience think of all the gas dollars you can save. Tri-Rail not only will save you lots of gas money but the aggravation of fighting the traffic on I-95 or the turnpike.
(9) If you decide to purchase a hybrid vehicle (or any fuel efficient model), be very careful not to fall victim to price gouging. Many car dealers take advantage of sky-high gas prices by charging a large premium over the MSRP of hybrids and fuel efficient vehicles. These "market value adjustments" amount to thousands of dollars and unfairly victimize consumers.