Ten tips for saving fuel and having fun on your summer road trip

saving fuelGas prices are going down across America. That’s good news to travelers fearing a repeat of 2008’s high gas price of $4.11 a gallon. AAA’s daily Fuel Gauge report shows regular gas at an average of $3.65 per gallon right now, down from $3.88 a month ago but still way higher than this time last year when it was $2.72 per gallon. Still, Summer road trip plans once put on hold have a breath of new life as prices continue to drop.

At the US Department of Energy (DOE) our supply of gasoline is a big deal and their fuel saving tips are a great source of information. Unfortunately they’re kind of dry reading and a lot of the same information you learned in drivers ed back in high school.

At Gadling, road trips rule supreme as one form of travel we can all do, anytime with anyone willing to go along for the ride. Gadling road trippers have a juicy, unique perspective on the American road that offers tips of a different nature.

Here are ten DOE fuel-saving tips along with ten Gadling road trips posts.

1. Keep Your Engine Properly Tuned-
Fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4 percent, though results vary based on the kind of repair and how well it is done. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40 percent.

20 tips for surviving a summer road trip, courtesy of touring musicians

2. Keep Tires Properly Inflated
You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. Properly inflated tires are safer and last longer.

The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is usually found on a sticker in the driver’s side door jamb or the glove box and in your owner’s manual. Do not use the maximum pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall.

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3. Use the Recommended Grade of Motor Oil

You can improve your gas mileage by 1–2 percent by using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil. For example, using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can lower your gas mileage by 1–2 percent. Using 5W-30 in an engine designed for 5W-20 can lower your gas mileage by 1–1.5 percent. Also, look for motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives.

Summer road trip plans; don’t let gas prices slow you down

4. Replacing a Clogged Air Filter on Modern Cars Improves Performance but Not MPG

A new study shows that replacing a clogged air filter on cars with fuel-injected, computer-controlled gasoline engines does not improve fuel economy but it can improve acceleration time by around 6 to 11 percent. This kind of engine is prevalent on most gasoline cars manufactured from the early 1980s onward.

Tests suggest that replacing a clogged air filter on an older car with a carbureted engine may improve fuel economy 2 to 6 percent under normal replacement conditions or up to 14 percent if the filter is so clogged that it significantly affects drivability.

The effect of a clogged air filter on diesel vehicles will be tested in the near future.

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5. Drive Sensibly

Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. Sensible driving is also safer for you and others, so you may save more than gas money.

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6. Observe the Speed Limit

Graph showing MPG VS speed MPG decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mphWhile each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.

You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.30 per gallon for gas.

Observing the speed limit is also safer.

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7. Remove Excess Weight

Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle, especially heavy ones. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your MPG by up to 2 percent. The reduction is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle’s weight and affects smaller vehicles more than larger ones.

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8. Avoid Excessive Idling

Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner (AC) use. Turn off your engine when your vehicle is parked. It only takes a few seconds worth of fuel to restart your vehicle. Turning your engine on and off excessively, however, may increase starter wear.

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9. Use Cruise Control

Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas.

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10. Use Overdrive Gears

When you use overdrive gearing, your car’s engine speed goes down. This saves gas and reduces engine wear.

Traveling the American Road -this is for sure one not to pass up as Paul Brady “takes to the country’s interstates, highways and back roads to prove it can, exploring both famous Americana and the little-known, roadside inns and road houses, national parks and parking lot flea markets, searching out the stories making so many places in America unique”

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Summer road trip plans; don’t let gas prices slow you down

summer road tripIf you’re starting to think about that Summer road trip and how much it is going to cost, take another look at gas prices. At about 96 cents above average prices last year, experts say prices could beat July 2008’s record $4.11 as Summer driving season demand, speculators and political uncertainty in Libya and the Middle East drive crude oil prices up.

“We’re going to see some more increases, but $4 gas is enough to cut demand,” Peter Beutel, president of energy risk manager Cameron Hanover told USAToday. “Once you get to a place where everyone is paying $4, the pain threshold is universally shared.”

Here are a few tips that can help save fuel:

  • Get off the highway to buy gas. The highest prices around will be on the interstate or turnpike. Look for well-marked exits that have multiple gas stations listed
  • Bring an extra friend to help share the cost. If the price of gas goes up 25% (which would be like a buck a gallon- not likely), adding a third or fourth friend along to share the cost can make a big difference.
  • Keep a log or journal. If you have done this before you know that things can get kind of blurry after driving 15 or 18 hours straight. Keeping a log of where you are when you buy gas, how much it was and how far that got you.
  • Have a plan on where you are going. It’s no problem to say “I want to see the country” but America is a pretty big place. Waking up in Kansas City to say “Next stop:Miami!” is more of a long-term goal. There will be a lot of stops between Kansas City and Miami.

Also see Gadling’s 20 tips for surviving a summer road trip, courtesy of touring musicians and RoadTripAmerica.com for more information.

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Calculate your fuel cost – Road trip tip

An essential ingredient for any road trip is fuel. While you know the cost of your accommodations, you may not always know how much gas will cost for the length of your road trip.

There are websites to help you determine that cost, however. For example, AAA‘s Fuel Cost Calculator allows you to calculate the fuel cost of your trip. Using drop-down menus, you select your starting city, destination and vehicle. The calculator determines mileage, gallons of fuel used and total fuel cost. Not all cities and destinations are listed, but you can get a general idea.

At GasBuddy.com, you can search for the best gas prices in each city or region you’re traveling through. Site visitors report what they paid for fuel at individual gas stations. You’ll learn the lowest and highest prices reported in the past 36 hours. Armed with this information, you can budget your fantastic road trip.

[Photo: Flickr | Borderfilms (Doug)]

Can flying geese offer cheaper airfare?

The way birds migrate has inspired a discovery of how to reduce the amount of jet fuel planes use.

The characteristic V formation that many species take when migrating long distances produces an effect called updraft. The air is pushed down by the bird ahead in formation, making it easier for the bird behind to create enough lift to keep going.

A team at Stanford University led by Professor Ilan Kroo suggests that airplanes do the same. The first jet in the V would essentially clear the way for easier flying for those behind.

This research isn’t new. Back in 1914 the German scientist Carl Wieselsberger first calculated the effects of updraft.

A French team studying pelicans found that flying in formation helped flocks fly 70% further than birds flying alone.

The Stanford team ran a simulation of three passenger jets leaving Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco rendezvousing over Utah before continuing on to the East Coast. They found the planes would use 15% less fuel, cutting the airlines’ major expense and carbon output in the process.

So will Ryanair slash rates even more by having their jets fly in formation to cheap holiday destinations, passing the savings to us along with cups full of ice water minus the water? Probably not. All the world’s flight paths would have to be rearranged, costing a huge amount and inevitably leading to some embarrassing near disaster. It is a cool idea, though.

Just a thought–I’d always heard that the V formation was all about dominance in the flock, with the strongest birds being closer to the front. Perhaps the reason the strongest go in front is to make it easier for the weaker ones. Having the leaders prove their strength actually helps the whole flock migrate.

Favorable fares may be coming to a close

In past years, Memorial Day signaled the end of sweetheart flight prices. This year, a sinking economy stretched the deals a bit longer, but experts say the good times may be coming to a close. Remember the problems last summer, with higher prices blamed on jet fuel? Well, we could see the cost of oil work the same dismal magic this summer.

Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com, cites recent fare increases of $10 to $20 per roundtrip as an indicator that we are the brink of an upswing. But, these are counterbalanced by new lows elsewhere. A recent survey by Travelocity shows ticket prices down 17 percent for trips between Memorial Day and Labor Day. So, buyers and sellers are locked in a silent struggle to determine how much your next vacation will cost.

With an eye out for possible deals, customers are waiting, booking their flights 86 days ahead instead of the usual 90. While this doesn’t seem like much, it takes a lot of last minute purchases to bring the average down.

Even if airline fares are coming back, you can still take advantage of the lows now. If you’re thinking about taking a vacation, stop … and take action instead.