Do your car—and your wallet—a favor by following these fuel-efficient tips.
By Nicholas Greene
For parents in the greater Houston area, your average drive time to work each morning is 26.8 minutes, based on data from the US Census Bureau. Double that for your trip home in the evening, and we’re talking about just about an hour in the car going to and from work each day.
Houstonians love to complain about their freeways, but the fact of the matter is that we’re a commuter city—a large metropolitan base where the majority of jobs are surrounded by a multitude of suburbs that house the population.
With gas prices only expected to rise as the summer heats up and more families taking to the roads for vacations, as well as the aforementioned commuting parents, making the most of your gas mileage can have a huge effect, not only on your car’s performance and longevity, but also where it counts the most, your pocketbook.
In an effort to make your family’s summer as economically enjoyable as possible, here are some easy tips to follow to keep your car’s needle off of the “E” and allow you to spend more money on theme parks, snow cones and swimming lessons.
1) Don’t Speed: Sure, going 80 miles per hour will get you to your destination faster (and potentially get you a $200 ticket for your trouble), but it’s ultimately damaging to your car, assuming you’re not driving the kids around in a Ferrari, Lotus or Lamborghini. For most cars on the road today, gas mileage starts to decrease once you pass 50 miles per hour, and it decreases at an exponential rate the faster you go. The national government’s fuel efficiency website, Fueleconomy.gov, estimates that for each five miles per hour greater than 50 that you drive, you’re paying an extra 24 cents per gallon for gas. The same website has a handy calculator that allows you to calculate your vehicle’s “speed penalty.”
2) Weighed Down: When you have more than one child, or multiples, you’re going to have an array of gear in your vehicle—some of it absolutely essential every time out and some that has been there since last summer. Strollers, car seats, sporting equipment, diaper bags and the like are usually made from heavier materials to be more durable, and that weight adds up. An extra 100 pounds of weight in your vehicle can reduce its miles-per-gallon rating by up to two percent. So if you can do without it, take it out!
3) TLC For Your Car: You treat yourself to manicures, pedicures and massages from time to time; your car deserves the same treatment. Just like your home, your car is a sizable investment that needs maintenance performed on it to keep small problems from turning into huge ones. It’s a bit more out of your wallet on the front end, but it will be worth it when you see your car perform better on the highway. The simplest two areas to keep on top of are motor oil and tires. Make sure you use the recommended motor oil for your vehicle. This keeps the engine running as smoothly as possible. Using the incorrect weight can lower your gas mileage by one to two percent. Your tires are an even bigger factor. Properly inflated tires can add more than three percent to your gas mileage. Every car has the recommended tire pressure printed somewhere, and most gas stations have air hoses that you can use for a small fee. Not sure how to measure the pressure? The same gas stations will sell a tire pressure gauge for around $3 that is simple to use. If you’ve got a child who’s getting interested in cars, this is a great first lesson to involve them in the care.