How to Slash the High Cost of Gas

I can sum up my response to the price of gasoline soaring once again in just one word: Aargh!

While waiting for prices to come down again (do you think they will?) don’t sit around complaining all the while paying through the nose to drive your car.

Photo Credit: Debbie
Photo Credit: Debbie

There are lots of things you can do to increase the number of miles you can squeeze out of each gallon of gas, effectively reducing its cost. Here are a few ways to get better gas mileage:

Empty the trunk

The heavier the car the harder the engine must work to move it around. The harder the engine works, the more fuel it burns. So unload all that other stuff you’ve been carrying around in the trunk for no good reason (please, leave the spare tire and emergency equipment). It’ s trunk, not a mini-storage unit. Unload and you could easily increase your gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.

Check tire inflation

Get into the habit of checking tire pressure every time you fill up, but when the tires are cold. The recommended PSI (pounds of pressure per square inch) is printed or stamped on a metal tag affixed to the edge of the front driver’s side door jamb—or on a older car, inside the glove box. Underinflated tires cause the engine to work harder than necessary, over inflation causes tires to wear prematurely.

Clean the air filter

One of the main causes of low gas mileage is a dirty air filter. If yours cannot be cleaned, replace it and repeat often. Check with a knowledgeable professional at an auto parts store or your mechanic about how often to clean or replace the air filter on your particular model. This is a task you can probably do yourself. 

Lighten the lead foot

Drive as if there is a raw egg positioned right under the gas pedal. Your mission is to accelerate so gently that you do not break the egg. Sudden acceleration and lead foot syndrome is the biggest of all fuel thieves.

Bundle your errands

Instead of making many small trips every day of the week, plan ahead. Run all of your errands at the same time, in one longer trip rather than making many small trips all week long. Once your car is warmed up it operates more efficiently, which means wit better gas mileage.

Repair, maintain

Transmission torque converter clutch failure results in poor gasoline mileage, as does transmission slipping, a stuck choke plate, and leaking injectors. Wow, that really sounds like I know whatI’m talking about, doesn’t it?

I’m no auto mechanic, but I’ve learned from so many of my readers who are that it pays to find a good mechanic you can trust and then trust him.

I’ve also learned my share of expensive lessons over the years that practicing preventive maintenance means cash in your pocket. First, you don’t have to pay for those expensive repairs, but as a bonus, you’ll get much better gas mileage when everything’s working well.

Change the oil religiously every three months, 3,000 miles or as recommended in the owner’s manual. Learn how to do this task yourself to save even more.

Increasing your gas mileage by only 10 percent is the equivalent of getting one free fill-up every tenth visit to the filling station. Not bad!

The secret is to redirect that savings to some other use before it gets absorbed into your regular spending.

This post was edited to correct information regarding where to locate proper tire inflation.

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10 replies
  1. ThatGirlRenita
    ThatGirlRenita says:

    Really have to disagree on the frequency of oil changes. Newer cars are designed to go 7500 miles between oil changes — that is what is written in my 2013 Elantra’s owners manual. My husband’s new Prius gets synthetic oil every 10,000 miles. Even with my previous 2003 model car, 5000 miles was often enough. Go by what’s in your owners manual, not what the Quik Lube place recommends (because of course they want you to come in more often).

    Reply
    • bananna
      bananna says:

      Our owners manual recommends every 4000 miles. Our mechanic, (not the person who changes our oil or even works at the place we take it for oil changes but the guy who works on our vehicle when there is a problem) recommends every 2000 miles.

      Reply
      • ThatGirlRenita
        ThatGirlRenita says:

        Depends somewhat on the age of your car, but I’d go with the owners manual unless you drive it in really severe conditions or it’s very old.

  2. Alaskan girl
    Alaskan girl says:

    We get money off our gas by shopping at Fred Meyer’s (Shell) and Safeway (Chevron). Just last week my husband typed in our phone # and got 50 cents off per gallon at Chevron. He was thrilled!. (You do need to sign-up and then you can enter your phone # when paying at the grocery store.)

    Reply
  3. American Aboard
    American Aboard says:

    Thanks for the tips … here in England we need them even more. We pay the equivalent of $8.75 (£5.85) per gallon. Compared with us, you’re doing great on gasoline (or, as we call it, petrol).

    Reply
  4. Kiki
    Kiki says:

    Great comments.
    I would suggest that car owners actually read the maintenance manual for the recommendation for how often and when to replace air filters, oil changes and other maintenance. Newer cars are expected to go longer between oil changes but follow the recommendation of the manufacturer. It also greatly depends upon the age of your car, the type of oil used, the type of driving (stop and go versus open freeway/road) and the outside ambient temperature (extreme heat or extreme.)
    And I really wish you were proofreading your articles better. I am getting so tired of the easy errors and mistakes you make in your writing. As a technical editor and writer one tip, read the article out loud to yourself before you hit publish. Do not read silently to yourself, read every word slowly – don’t allow your mind the opportunity to fill in missing or incorrect words – your mind with play tricks on you.

    Reply
  5. Brad Bishop
    Brad Bishop says:

    Some of that advice is from cars 20+ years ago.

    Check your owner’s manual for details on all of this with regards to the timing of things. Way back 3000mi or 3mo was a good target for changing of the oil. Now, depending on the vehicle, it’s somewhere between 5000mi and 7500mi and maybe even more for some. The same kind of thing happened with spark plugs, too. You can get 100,000mi out of spark plugs now.

    I’d say that the biggest issues I see for people with car maintenance are:
    – Keeping the tires inflated. You don’t have to do this every fill up but once a month isn’t a bad idea or at least once a quarter. If you have one noticeably lower in pressure than the others then it likely has a nail in it and you should go get it checked.
    – Keeping the tires aligned / properly balanced. This is just a good idea to not burn through tires and to have a smoother ride. It’ll help with mileage some as your car isn’t working against itself. Tires aren’t sexy. No one get excited about buying tires but when it’s time it’s time. Don’t try to stretch it out. New tires are cheaper than a wreck.
    – When something breaks, fix it. If you let it stack up then eventually the fixes will cost more than the car. If you just keep up with the maintenance and repairs then you should have a pretty reliable car that’s worth more to you than it would be to sell it.

    Also, the proper tire pressure is on the inside of the driver’s door. Open the door, look down and to your right (before you get into the car), and there is a sticker right there telling you useful information.

    Reply
  6. Prospector
    Prospector says:

    You may have missed the ultimate way to save on gas… STOP DRIVING! You can walk to a corner store where milk is the same price as at Safeway. You can bike to Safeway if the corner store is out of milk. You can even use a bike trailer to bring home all the groceries… but it doesn’t end there. You can use apps and websites to find carpool partners. You can move and buy a house closer to where you work or to a transit line, you can change your loyalties and do activities closer to home.

    If you want to stop paying too much for gas, just stop using it!

    Reply

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