Response to the rising fuel prices

You’ve heard it all over the news and heard the groans of fellow consumers at gas stations, fuel prices are going back up. According to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, the price for regular unleaded is $3.747/gallon in the Portland Metro area–in comparison to the price a year ago $2.787/gallon.

Let’s put that into a more personal perspective with a very general example, suppose you drive a 2010 Toyota Highlander that averages 19 mpg–according to the U.S. Department of Energy and Energy Protection Agency’s Fuel Economy Guide and your daily commute to work is 20 miles round-trip and assuming the month had 22 average working days. What that would mean to you is the change in fuel prices alone (holding all else constant) added $22.23/month in your fuel expense just to travel to and from work. Interested in doing this for your personal example? Here’s a handy a commute cost calculator from CarpoolMatchNW.

Edmunds.com found that the best way to improve fuel efficiency was to accelerate slowly and to brake over a longer distance. Aside from purchasing a new vehicle, this is the single most effective step you can take to reduce your costs. According to fueleconomy.gov, “as a rule of thumb, you can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.”

Use the web to research the lowest prices in your neighborhood. For example, Gasbuddy.com is “a group of local website which offers an online method for website visitors to post and view recent retail gasoline prices.” We use their app when on the road and strongly encourage others to as well, since the database is only as good as when users update the prices as they change. One justifiable lacking of many fuel price aggregating sites is not listing membership based/wholesale club stations (e.g. Costco or Fred Meyer). Here’s a caveat: only buy cheap gas if it’s convenient to do so. On a ten-gallon fill-up, saving five cents a gallon only nets you fifty cents. The aforementioned Highlander costs 20 cents per mile to operate so it wouldn’t make sense to go more than a mile out of the way to find cheaper gas.

If possible, schedule your trips and errands for times when traffic is lighter. In a detailed article, the author and researcher, OmniNerd found that commute times varied widely depending on the commuter’s departure time. If your company allows it, try coming in earlier or later in order to avoid rush hour or better yet, telework! To avoid traffic, there are simple strategies such as: if you know you have to buy groceries, pick up/drop off dry-cleaning, and avoid sitting in rush hour traffic… why not, right? Combine multiple trips into one which is also known as trip-chaining, go to DriveLessSaveMore‘s website for more driving resources.

Carry only the bare neccessities — don’t haul things in your trunk. Accordingly to BankRate, “for every extra 250 pounds your engine hauls, the car loses about one mile per gallon in fuel economy.” Change the way you drive, about half of your vehicle’s energy is expended overcoming air resistance. (The other half is expended in acceleration.) Reduce your car’s workload — remove anything that might cause drag: luggage racks, bike racks, ski racks, etc,

Instead of wasting money on “gas-saving product” which Consumer Reports and the U.S. Federal Trade Commissions consider to be scams, here are some basic things you can do or schedule us to come onsite to do for you. They are listed in order of lower to higher difficulty.

  • Check tires regularly, under inflated tires are not only dangerous, they can reduce your gas mileage up to 25%. Keep your tires balanced and aligned through a constant rotation schedule.
  • When filling up, ask the fuel attendant not to top-off. Overfilling can lead to wasted gas through evaporation. According to Advance Auto Parts, “improperly seated gas caps allow 147 million gallons of fuel to vaporize every year in the U.S.”
  • Check your air filter, a dirty filter can reduce your gas mileage up to 20%
  • Check your spark plugs and spark plug wires, worn or fouled spark plugs will cause your engine to perform poorly and reduce gas mileage as much as 12%
  • Check your distributor cap, a worn or cracked distributor cap or rotor will reduce the performance of your engine and waste gas.
  • Check your oxygen sensor, a slow or faulty oxygen sensor will cause a drop in fuel economy of 10-15%
  • Check your fuel filter, clogged or restricted fuel filters not only reduce engine performance but can allow dirt to contaminate the fuel system and cause engine wear.
  • Check your fuel injector, clean fuel injectors perform better and make your engine more efficient.
  • Check your air intake and make sure your throttle body is clean with no build up. On engines equipped with a carburetor make sure the choke linkage is clean and operating properly.
  • Check your PCV valve, malfunctioning PCV valves or dirty breather filters prohibit your engine from breathing properly and hinder engine performance.
  • Maintain your manufacturer’s recommended oil change schedule. Clean motor oil not only protects your engine, it can lower your exhaust emissions and allow your engine to operate more efficiently.
  • Don’t drive with the check engine light on! Call us to schedule us to come to you to properly diagnose the problem before it gets worse.

A car in poor running condition will use more gas than one that has been tuned up. Thanks for reading and we hope that our post gives you new insights on how to save on unnecessary fuel expenses and reminded you of many things you may already know. As always, we strive to deliver convenient auto repair service to help prolong the life of your asset.

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