Monday, July 28, 2008

eight (or more) things you can do to save gas

saving gas

I've read an onslaught of editorials in a wide range of newspapers, magazines and have seen several news segments on driving tips to help you save $$ at the gas pump. thought I'd put together my best of list, as I've read a lot of things out there that are either not entirely accurate (close the windows and "crank the AC") or incredibly effective suggestions that just aren't stressed heavily enough.

Since I totaled my first car (a geo prizm) in the beginning of 2004, mostly due to the fact that I was a previously lucky aggressive driver, I became addicted to finding ways to save gas. Saving gas and driving more safely go hand in hand. I always believed the basis of what makes a car "good" is the fuel efficiency. The car I replaced the prism with in 04 was a honda insight hybrid. After driving a car now for 100,000+ miles in a car which gives you up to the second feedback on your current gas mileage, you're bound to learn a thing or two about conserving gas by seeing how easy it is to waste gas with bad driving habits. The gauge doesn't lie. It has always made me wonder why EVERY car didn't have an up to the moment fuel efficiency gauge.

This might seem petty to some to publicly put out there, but I feel strongly about any topic in which I feel that we as humans are capable of addressing to help benefit every living thing on this planet. Why not do everything we can while we're here to ensure a bright future for generations? Saving gas is a small part of this, no doubt, and that's why I say it may seem petty, but the truth is, when we face reality, it isn't petty at all to wake up and take a serious look at how our daily habits and tendencies might impact not just how much gas we use, but other things in the big picture that can only make our lives more worth living to the fullest.

So I've decided to finally post this list of gas saving tips, more or less in order of impact on your MPG. I've realized that with a car that gets such incredible gas mileage and live feedback (from 0-150mpg gauge), you are able to more obviously learn what are bad habits and what are good habbits, in regards to saving gas. Since there is a wide range of fuel economy i can get with this car, the best practices become blatantly clear.

1. Tire air pressure. I've noticed many things have impact on my mpg, but nothing surprised me more than when after I saw the massive improvement on my mileage after first checking the air pressure of my tires, about two months after buying my honda.. First, BUY an accurate dial gauge, keep it in your car and use it to check your air regularly. After reading this suggestion on a message board regarding complaints that hybrids weren't reaching expected mpgs, I realized that all of my tires were about 5 psi short of the suggested 35/38 psi for my particular tires. I went from an average daily commute of 47mpg to 61mpg after filling them all up to 41 psi and following a few other tips regarding anticipating and avoiding unnecessary breaking.

There is no doubt about it, increasing air pressure will make a hugely positive impact on extending a tank of gas. You are increasing the surface area of the tire to it's maximum capacity, which exponentially effects the efficiency for all four tires. The idea holds true across the board for all vehicles that ride on air filled tires.. Keep your tires full!! They deflate faster than you realize, and it maks a huge impact on how much gas you end up using.

Try overfilling your tires a couple psi next time you're at the pump.. be careful and conservative not to over do it. this is why I suggest you purchase your own accurate dial gauge. Start with 1-2 psi over. some "max" limits are more realistic than others, so check online w/ google and see what other people are able to max your brand of tires out to. I've kept mine 12-13 psi higher than the dealer recommended and contrary to my initial fears, 50 psi in those little insight tires is not doing any harm at all. I can however easily achieve fuel efficiency that's at or higher than the EPA's mileage rating for my car while not having to drive sub-speed limit. In theory, increasing your air pressure will negatively effect the handling on tight turns, but you shouldn't be speeding through tight turns anyway, so it's a compromise I've been willing to live with and have never ever had any problem with handling even the tightest turns even at fast speeds. Check for uneven tire wear and rotate your tires when recommended.

2. Look ahead and anticipate so you can maintain your speed.. On highways/freeways you'll save the most gas if you're able to maintain the speed of traffic with as little break touching as possible. Don't follow closer than 2 seconds behind the car in front of you (use a sign or something stationary on the side of the road to count from) and when you can, keep an eye on the breaklights of the car two cars in front of you. You will then be able to anticipate when the car directly in front of you will hit their breaks. You may be able to match the speed of the car in front of you by letting off the gas early, without having to drop your foot on the break at all instead of just hitting the breaks when the car in front of you does. This will work absolute wonders with maintaining the momentum of your acceleration, thus saving you gallons and gallons of gas over time. You'll be driving smarter than the majority of the other cars on the road and I frequently notice this is contagious.. you'll start to notice other cars around you back off on the tailgating and driving a little smarter.

You do nothing but waste gas and stress yourself out by following the bumper to bumper routine breaking when the person in front of you breaks and speeding up the second they let off. Most of the time I find myself more capable of finding lane breaks... because you're more calm, you're able to make smarter decisions, I can't tell you how many times i see people speed themselves into lane traps while the lane I'm in suddenly opens and i'm able to get out of there without having to drive like an ass.

3. Don't use cruise control!!!! Give yourself some credit. You are able to do something cruise control can't, and that is anticipate. Being able to anticipate road changes, hills, curves, lane problems etc allow you to know when might be a good time to just take your foot off the pedal, coast and make a decision. Many times I read people suggest cruize control for saving gas.. it's a bad suggestion. You want to maintain a relatively constant speed, however you dont need overdrive kicking in if suddenly you are going up steep hill when you could have just anticipated it, and accelerated going into the hill and saved a buck of gas right there. Even when you assist the acceleration while in cruise, cruise undoubtedly has a mind of its own.

4. Keep your oil and filter changes and of course transmission flushes regular, as suggested. Your car's engine isn't going to be running very efficiently if it's full of thick burnt fluids and clogged filters. Make sure you're up to date w/ sparkplug changes, and have your exhaust system regularly inspected, especially with older cars--exhaust leaks lead to incredibly noticeable loss of power. Every time I change my oil, filter and transmission fluid I notice at least a 5 mpg improvement from before.

5. I see this all over and it's a great suggestion. Try leaving for your destination, be it work, the airport etc 5 or 10 minutes earlier. You will be able to chill out a bit while driving and not feel the tendency to speed.

6. Roll up the windows, this will cut down on drag, and having windows rolled down on the freeway or highway will slow you down.. not a very significant amount, but it does make enough of a difference. Turn OFF the AC and use the fan instead when you can. If you have the temperature on cold, yet the air coming in is hot as hell, we'll you probably should have your car serviced, or at least change your fluids.

7. Seriously.. just slow down. So many people tend to drive without realizing that every time they lay on the gas, they're burning money out of their wallet. I'm not saying there aren't times when you need to kick it in overdrive, but don't do it when there is a stop light a block in front of you. Coast when you can coast. Breathe. Chill out. Contrary to popular belief, you aren't impressing anyone when you show us how loud your engine can get. I loose count how many times I find myself passing cars that floored it past me blocks ago because I'm able to coast into a green light while they're still lifting their foot off from slamming into the breaks.

8. Revisiting the look ahead suggestion, imagine your line of trajectory from where you are to where the road ahead is going, especially in more open areas. Try to keep the line smooth... while staying in your lane, cheat towards the inside of turns (right side on right turns/curves, left side on left turns/curves) You'll get better traction, have a smoother, less jolting drive and save gas. Try to make your lane changes smooth... this cuts down on air friction and really helps to maintain your momentum.

The final... uhm... tip, which i would recommend with ultimate caution is drafting. Drafting is when you follow a vehicle larger than your own. This is like riding a bike behind a truck on a windy day. You get less wind resistance so you're able to maintain your speed w/o having to fight the wind. This tip could be placed quite high in the list of tips, and I'm not even going to tell you what my gas mileage can reach when drafting at 65mph... triple digits are not uncommon... Problem is drafting can be very risky and extremely dangerous. I used to draft religiously 2 seconds behind semis until one had a rear tire blowout directly in front of me on a loooong road trip from chicago to san francisco going 80mph (speed limit) on I-80. I was lucky to walk away from that and probably will never sit behind a semi again.

It is possible to draft while still maintaining enough breaking time if need be to avoid an accident, but my experience has steered me away from risking it unless I'm really trying to stretch a tank. I suppose I'd feel more comfortable drafting if i wasn't in a 2 seater hatchback, and if I didn't have that experience.

So at the risk of sounding preachy, I felt these tips are too valuable to keep to myself as really looking at how I drive has saved me hundreds and hundreds of dollars over the past few years after changing my driving habits.. so why not put it out there.

Monday, July 14, 2008

McCain: "How to kill Iranians"

It's not whether you were serious or not that has people concerned, John.. It's the fact that your mind is twisted enough to even think this way in the first place...

...and you're running for _president_?

I wonder how red Joe Lieberman's face turned when he heard you spill this one out?

Playin: Firewater-"Already Gone" from the highly recommended album "The Golden Hour"