Gas Tips to the Test

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

Gas prices have pumped up over the dreaded three-dollar mark. Our wallets are thinning out and we’re all looking for ways to stop guzzling so much gas. We commonly hear tips on how to save money - like slowing down, checking our tire pressure - but do those things really work?

We tested them out, to see if they really do save gas - and more importantly - save cash.

“There are a lot of things – the government lists about 10 things - you can do to save on fuel.”

Taking the advice of Rock Valley College’s Automotive Department Director – Dennis Palmer - we hit the road - testing out that government list. We traveled from the South Main Mobile in Rockford to the West Avenue Mobile in Freeport. It’s a 30 mile drive and we made six trips - each time testing out a gas saving tip.

Our first trip, we went 65mph. Then, on our way back, we traveled 55mph - to see if we could save any money.

And we did. According to our test, when we slowed down we got 15-percent better gas mileage.

Bottom line - slow down - it will save you gas and cash. The only catch - 55 mph may not be realistic for most of us.

“You get on the bypass today and how many people pass you at 75-80mph and they’re saying what am I getting for fuel economy,” says Palmer.

How about the tire pressure theory?

Not enough air in our tires is rumored to cost us more at the pump. We took one trip – going 65 mph - with our tires at 25 PSI - and another trip – going 65 – at 34 PSI.

Our result: 13-percent better fuel economy.

Next up: air conditioning on – windows up vs. air conditioning off -windows down. The theory is, having the windows down, drags the car down and uses up more fuel.

“That air gets caught in the back of the car – so at higher speeds you’re better off driving down the street with the windows up, a/c on,” says Palmer.

For our test – there was no difference in fuel economy- but one could argue the wind damage to the hair do…might be worth rolling those windows up.

So overall, what did we learn? If we’re willing to adjust our driving habits a bit, we might just be able to save some coin.

“If you start looking at 10-percent – if you can save 10-percent on fuel economy, well 10-percent is 30cents a gallon – well how many gallons of fuel do you buy a year,” says Palmer.

Palmer also says keeping our vehicles tuned up can make them more fuel efficient. Other tips - he says don't accelerate too fast after a red light or stop sign. If we're stopped for a while - at a drive thru - for example - we might be better off actually shutting off our car.


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