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Winter Fuel Economy

by Pauline Milner


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In today's economy, every little bit helps when it comes to decreasing your expenditures. Steer your vehicle towards this advice to reduce your fuel consumption while rewarding the environment with your diminished carbon footprint.

Slow down. If you drive 50 MPH as opposed to 60 MPH, your fuel usage can drop by as much as 7%.

Don't sit idly waiting. When waiting in a drive-thru line or for a train to pass, if you idle for more than a couple of minutes, you will burn an extra 8 to 13 cents a gallon for every 10 minutes that you sit there.

Tip: Remember to never idle backed up to a snow bank, even with the window cracked open. Carbon Dioxide re-entering your vehicle from the exhaust can be fatal.

Keep your windows up and the sunroof closed. When you drive with the windows rolled down or the sunroof open, you are creating aerodynamic drag that will drive your fuel costs up by 10%.

Watch tire pressure. You can use up to 4% more fuel if your tire pressures are uneven. Tire gauges are easy to use and the recommended tire pressure can be found on the sticker inside the driver's door.

Tip: As soon as permitted in your state, have your winter tires installed and avoid the inevitable line-ups after the first snow fall of the season.

Sign up! If you do not have roadside assistance, you may want to consider purchasing a membership in AAA. Decent coverage is available for around $100 per year. This is a worthwhile investment because one call to a tow truck could well exceed your annual membership.

Tip: You will also enjoy perks at a selection of businesses just for being a member.

Remove the roof rack. Due to the increased drag, leaving an empty roof rack on your roof is worse than driving with the windows open. Expect your fuel use to be increased by 20% or even more, depending on the wind direction.

Participate in trip planning. Take a moment to plan your stops when doing errands. Choose the route that makes the shortest loop back home.

Put your vehicle on a diet. Do you think extra weight will increase your traction in snow? It may, but it will cost you 2 cents a gallon for every 100 pounds of excess weight and provide the disadvantage of a projectile in the event of an accident.

Tip: While a rear wheel drive vehicle could adhere better to the snow, a front wheel drive vehicle will worsen the weight distribution.

Turn off the air conditioning. Using your A/C can increase fuel costs by as much as 20%. If you need your A/C, use the re-circulation option, avoid using the maximum setting, and look for an A/C system with economy mode when purchasing a new vehicle.

Avoid premium fuels. Ample studies have demonstrated that premium fuels perform just as well as economy options with the only real payoff being, possibly, less impact on the environment. Even car manufacturers admit that the stated requirement for premium fuel use is merely a suggestion. Premium fuels can cost as much as 40 cents more per gallon.

Forget cruise control. It has long been believed that using cruise control to keep your vehicle at a constant speed translates into big fuel savings. On a flat, straight road, this can be true. However, when driving over hills, even if they are gradual, your fuel requirement will actually increase.

Reduce the cost of your gasoline with a 'gas card'. You can compare them here.

Keep vehicle maintained. Do not neglect to keep your vehicle well-tuned. Purchasing a winter preparation package from your local garage can result in 30% better fuel efficiency. Air filters, worn brakes, residue in the fuel lines, and deteriorated oil will reduce fuel performance.

Be careful of fuel spillage. Avoid continuing to top off the tank after the pump automatically shuts off. Gas can end up on the ground or all over your boots and favorite jeans. If you want to simply throw money away, find a wishing well.

Stay in line. Misalignment of your vehicle can increase drive-train drag, which translates into a cost of up to 21 cents a gallon or more in fuel usage.

Forget about fuel density. Don't bother getting up at 5 AM to save money on fuel believing the fuel density changes throughout the day, costing you more to fill up in warmer weather. Fuel is stored underground in insulated tanks that keep the temperature constant. You will not save any money, but you will be cutting into your time with the sandman for nothing.

Gas evaporates but your money doesn't have to disappear. If you practice fuel efficiency on a regular basis and maintain your vehicle in good running order, you will notice gas savings, which will help to keep your blood pressure down when you see the price of oil drop while the price you pay per gallon is unaffected.

* Calculations have been based on an average price of $2.20 per gallon.

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