BY BARNABY JOYCE
It’s no secret that the price of gas is exorbitantly expensive right now. Although the cost per gallon is finally starting to decline, fuel is still far pricier than it was in past years. Outside of hanging up your car keys for good, how can you possibly keep from going broke? If you’re strapped for cash, follow these rules to make the most out of every last drop of gas. With these techniques, you could get up to 20 more miles per tank.
Be an easy rider:
Driving “gently” can help you conserve gas. If you accelerate quickly, brake suddenly and drive aggressively, you could decrease your fuel economy by up to 33 percent! This kind of forceful driving can add more than a dollar to each gallon when you fill up your tank.
Look 30 seconds into the future:
Pay close attention to the road. If you keep your eyes moving and continually scan the road ahead, you’ll know early on when you’ll need to brake. Some experts say you should constantly check the road that is 30 seconds ahead of your car. That’s about a block in the city or half a mile on the highway.
This allows you to plan ahead so you won’t have to make sudden aggressive maneuvers at the last minute. For example, if you see a light turning red up ahead, go ahead and start easing off your accelerator so you won’t have to make an abrupt stop at the intersection. If you slow down for long enough, the light may be green by the time you reach it, which means you won’t have to brake at all.
Give your engine a rest:
Turn off your car whenever possible. Experts say that idling for just one minute uses up more gas than turning off and then restarting your car. So, if you’re waiting at the fast food drive through or the bank for even a minute or two, go ahead and turn off your car.
Watch your speed:
Driving slow may not be fun, but it can certainly save you some gas. Cars generally reach their optimum fuel efficiency between 45 and 60 miles per hour. Once you accelerate to over 60 mph, your engine has to burn much more fuel to keep the pace.
Some studies have shown that every 5 mph increase you drive over 60 mph adds about 20 cents to your gas price tag—and that estimate is based on a $3.22 per gallon model, so it adds up to even more right now.
You can also conserve fuel by maintaining a steady speed. When used correctly, cruise control can boost fuel economy by up to 14 percent on the highway. This is because every tiny pressure change you make to your accelerator—even slight changes that aren’t registered by your speedometer—can burn up more gas.
If you maintain a precise speed with cruise control, you’ll avoid these small accelerator movements and save more gas. However, cruise control won’t work if you’re sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. In heavy traffic, your constant braking and speed changes can burn up a lot of gas. If at all possible, take a route with less traffic so you can sustain a steady speed. Of course, traffic is pretty much unavoidable in many cities.
Take the most direct route:
We all know that shortest distance between any two points is a straight line. But did you know that driving in a straight line can actually save you gas? By taking the shortest and most fuel efficient route from point A to point B, you’ll burn up much less fuel. You should also drive as straight as possible on the road—if you constantly switch lanes on the highway, you’re wasting a lot of gas. When necessary, try to make smooth, gradual lane changes.
Look out for hills:
If you know you are approaching a hill in the road, build up your speed before you reach it. Try to maintain your speed as you ascend the hill by gradually accelerating. This will help you prevent full-throttle acceleration, which burns up excessive amounts of gas.
Don’t lock out overdrive:
The typical car with a four or five speed automatic transmission has overdrive as its highest gear. Overdrive allows the car to maintain steady highway speeds above 45 mph without making the engine work so hard. You should only lock out overdrive if you’re towing something and need extra torque or in other rare circumstances. However, if you want to save fuel on the highway, leave the overdrive button alone.
Try to consolidate car trips whenever possible. For example, if you know you need to go to the grocery store and the post office, don’t split these up into two different trips. Take care of as many errands as possible in one run.
Whenever possible, walk or ride your bike, especially if you’re traveling somewhere just a couple of miles from home. Not only will this keep you healthy and fit, but it will also help you save loads in gas money.
Barnaby Joyce has lived in North Rockland since childhood. He is the principal of Joyce Insurance Agency in Stony Point