Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tire Pressure: Can Kill Your MPG.

So you are doing everything right in the way you drive to optimize fuel economy. You're watching your starts and stops. Keeping your speed down. The engine runs great.

But you are still finding that something is robbing you of the fuel economy your should be showing... Tires!
If your car does not roll smoothly on properly inflated tires you will lose mileage.

I found that out the hard way:
Last spring I drove all the way from Upstate New York down to Florida on tires that were under inflated by about 7 lbs. I was getting lousy mileage. And I was even using a fuel additive.

I wasn't paying attention to the tires until one of the vacation days I noticed the front tires were showing unusual wear on the outsides. I did not carry a tire gauge, so I could not check to see what the tire pressure was at that time.

I noticed that there is a Honda dealership near the condo we were staying at. I dropped in at the chance that someone would be able to look at my tires.

The service coordinator had some time and was able to check the tire pressure for me. He found them to be at 29-30 lbs. He told me the pressure in the tire should be at 35 lbs.

Man, the tires were grossly under inflated. Thank God he was able to add air up to the proper pressure at no cost. Of course the damage had already been done to the outside of my tires. He even recommended replacing them. I was not ready to do that being away on vacation. I ended up rotating the tires front to back and drove home without incident.

We actually drove home with properly inflated tires and got the mileage we were accustomed to when cruising on the highways.

I now regularly check the tire pressure in both our vehicles, so I know they will not be the "bad mileage" culprits.

To see how much air to put in your car's tires you can check inside the door jam or your vehicle's Car Manual. This will give you the factory recommended tire pressure for your vehicle.


Door Jam Sticker


To check the pressure, I use a digital tire gauge, as I had misplaced my old pressure gauge. Both versions work fine. I did manage to find the analog gauge for this picture.


Tire Pressure Gauges

To inflate the tires I use a little portable air compressor. This way I don't have to pay 75 cents for something that should be free. I also do not have to look for an air station as not all gas stations have one.


Electric Pump

This shows you that you can't exclude tire pressure from regular maintenance checks.
I won't make that same mistake again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Idling Your Car or Truck Wastes Gas and Pollutes.

So how long were you waiting in line at the bank drive-thru?
How many cars were waiting in front of you? How long were you actually waiting before it was your turn? Was your car running continuously while you were waiting there?

Did you leave your car idling, while quickly running in to get your dry-cleaning?
How about that railroad crossing that you had to stop for because a mile long freight train was going by.

Believe it or not while your car is idling (and not going anywhere) you were still using gas. Unless you drive a hybrid that is in electric mode at that time, you get zero miles per gallon when idling. Depending what you drive your can use anywhere from half a gallon to a full gallon of gas per hour of just idling. In addition you are still sending CO2 and othere noxious emissions in the atmosphere.

Ok so let's see how idling affects your car's engine: While you are idle (not driving, but engine is on): You put unusual wear on the engine as the car does not cool well. At higher temps engine oil breaks down faster. This in turn requires more maintenance intervals. With the oil running at higher temps you are also putting additional wear on the engine components.

As you can see long term idling may be convenient for you, but harmful to your wallet and the environment.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What is your current fuel cost?

What is your current MPG?

To start saving gas you need to know how much you are spending today. What is your daily regular cost of driving back and forth to work? What would your current costs be driving on the highway as opposed to city driving? Do you know what this cost is over an extended period of time? Say a month. Can you get an accurate average cost/MPG?

Once you have this baseline, you can see if any measures you take will indeed reduce your gas/diesel consumption.

Some businesses already record this information as they not only have to record fuel consumption, but also full maintenance of their vehicle(s). But this is a whole other subject.

OK, so how do you figure that out?

Well some of you may have a tool built in your vehicle that can figure this out for you.
This is a trip computer. It calculates the range of a full tank and the average MPG you are getting at the moment. You may need to read your car's owner's manual to set it up correctly. This way you know how to reset the system or zero it out. You can then record this information on your note pad or receipt.

Most cars have a trip odometer, which is the second mileage dial on the dash of your car. Some are digital like mine on the Honda. Some are analog and require you to either dial or push to reset to zero.

You need to be able to record how much gas you get everytime you fill up.

When you get gas you should fill it up all the way until the pump clicks and stop filling. If you do this every time you get gas, the amount to fill will be consistent. This in turn will give you more accurate MPG calculations.

I also recommend getting a receipt every time you fill up. Write the odometer mileage on the receipt. This will allow you to record the information on your pad, spreadsheet or computer at a later time. This also saves you time at the pump.

Now you are recording your mileage everytime you fill up. What do you do with it?

Well we need to calculate and record your mileage/MPG. This is done by taking the number of miles driven and divide this by the number of gallons filled. For some just doing this in your head is great. I need my handy calculator or computer to do this for me. This way I know it's done correctly and accurately. I created a spreadsheet on the computer that does the calculations for me.

For the rest of you a pen, a pad of paper, and a calculator (I tend to be more accurate with one) will do fine.

Now you are recording the mileage information every time you fill up. You can start to see what your average MPG is over a specific time frame. If you record how much you spend you can also start to see how much you pay for gas over time.

In a future post I'll tell you how I automate this process and show you the tools I use.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How real is hypermiling?

If you are anything like me, I am sure you have read or heard about "Hypermiling". Per Wikipedia "Hypermiling" is a term used in North America that refers to a set of techniques used to maximize fuel economy. Those who practice the techniques are referred to as "hypermilers."

Some of the primary techniques they use are:Reducing lead foot start and stops by keeping speed as constant as possible.Use your cruise control as much as possible. Turning off the engine when coasting and when stopped for long periods.

There are even some dangerous moves they do in the name of better MPG such as drafting behind semis and driving way below the speed limit on highways.

OK so this may be a bit extreme, but dialed down a bit these methods can and will reduce your fuel consumption:

Every time you hit that gas or break pedal too hard you have used too much gas to get into that situation. So try easing on the gas. This in turn will ease your breaking. Overall you gain fuel economy and your brakes last longer.

You know, you do not have to use your cruise control on the highway only. I've actually used it at 30 MPH on a long stretch of residential road. It is easier than having to maintain the 30 MPH pace. Also a guarantee not to get a ticket by that cop sitting in that one side street.

Turning off your car's engine while driving 50 MPH down an incline can be dangerous and not my suggestion. But shutting the engine down while you wait at the drive through teller,or while you're waiting for that long train to go by. That makes more sense to me.

Driving to reduce your fuel consumption takes a little thought and can be done with positive results. Hypermiling has good intentions as long as it is done safely.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Basic engine maintenance the oil change part 1.

OK! OK! This probably is not the first time you've heard this.
It's fall, kids are back to school. Time to do the basic of all car maintenance.

The Oil change!

Have you tried any of those quick service oil change places.
Are they worth it? These are the major players in our area in Upstate NY.

Valvoline Instant Oil Change
Their service includes up to 5 quarts of Valvoline® conventional Oil, a new Valvoline oil filter, and vehicle lubrication of chassis components according to manufacturer's specifications. Their cost $34.99. For their Durablend service the cost is $49.99. With Valvoline's Maxlife, for vehicles with more than 75,000 miles, the charge is the same as the Durablend Service. For full synthetic service you pay $62.99.

Delta Sonic's Oil Change.
Aside from washing your car they have their own full range oil change menu. For the conventional oil service they charge $25.99. If you get a wash first, the cost of the basic oil change is $19.99. That is a good deal! Then they have a Deluxe and Super package, which uses a synthetic blend and charges $29.99 and $32.99 respectively. They added a fuel injector cleaner to make it "Super". Their full synthetic service includes Mobil 1 and costs $59.99.

Both Valvoline Instant and Delta-Sonic top off all fluids, lube chassis where needed, check air filter, wiper blades, tires, lights, belts, and pcv valve.

Come back for more info on other "instant oil change shops".
Also what would it cost to do it yourself?