How to cut your fuel bill

If you web search ‘How to Save Gas’ be prepared for 73 million responses to pop up. Then be disappointed when you don’t find a single, legitimate magic formula. That’s because there is no one secret way, trick, tool, or mechanism to cut your fuel bill in half overnight.

However, if you’re willing to put in a little effort, there is a series of tips that will put money in your pocket rather than your gas station’s till.

Tire pressure takes a toll

Running under-inflated tires can increase fuel costs by as much as five per cent, not to mention the increased risk of a blow-out when carrying or towing heavy loads or the shortened lifespan of the tire. They should be checked every two weeks in winter and once a month in warmer weather. Tire bead seals and rims tend to lose more air pressure when the temperature drops. Check the pressure before heading out or after letting the tires cool off for an hour or so. Moisture in the tire’s air tends to artificially raise the pressure when tire temperature rises. Set the tires to the car manufacturer’s specs, not the tire maker’s. The proper setting is found on the driver’s door or door frame label or in the owner’s manual.

Unload the luggage

Check what’s in your trunk or cargo area. Do you really need a set of golf clubs today or junior’s hockey gear? And if you’re really planning on dropping those boxes and bags off to the charity bin, do it today. Stripping 40 pounds from the vehicle will make a noticeable dent in the monthly fuel expenses.

Clear the roof

I’m always amazed at vehicles in the commuting lanes with roof top carriers on board. I’ll wager, if they’re heading to the office, that carrier is almost certainly empty. It takes a few minutes to pop it off after a weekend away. It sucks up at least five per cent more fuel if it’s left there for the week.

Clear the intake

Dirty air filters remain the single largest wasters of fuel under the hood. And no, modern fuel injected engines can’t overcome the detrimental effects of a dirty air filter by adjusting the fuel mixture. Even if they could, you’d be robbing yourself of engine performance. Most car makers make checking an air filter a no-tools affair with quick release clips on the filter’s case. Pop it out every three months or so (more often if you drive a lot on unpaved roads) and check the underside for trapped debris, dust and discolouration. Most new air filters pay for themselves in improved fuel economy in the first two or three tanks of gas.


Spark fuel savings

Worn spark plugs simply can’t efficiently burn fuel and if you rely on your vehicle’s ‘check engine light’ to let you know when its time to replace them, you’re wasting fuel and risking an expensive catalytic convertor failure. Standard copper core plugs need to be switched out at around 30,000 to 35,000 km. Platinum tipped units are usually good for at least 100,000 km. But they do need to be inspected every 50,000 km to ensure they’ll come out when it’s time for replacement without damaging cylinder head threads.

Brakes can be a real drag

An increasingly prevalent brake failure is seized caliper sliders, which can cause accelerated brake lining wear and decelerated fuel economy. A main reason for this is the penchant of auto designers to use more exotic looking alloy rims with open spokes. That means water, salt and grit affect brake systems and their moving parts. Inspecting brakes annually is a cheap, easy way to avoid the drag that can put on your fuel wallet.

Photo © Skip ODonnell