Friday, December 28, 2012

Double your Mpg

As most of you probably know by now, my goal is to eventually find a good cheap motorcycle to use as my primary means of transportation. I think that when gasoline climbs to five and six bucks a gallon (and more) then having a way of getting from here to there at 70 MPG will allow me to get around without breaking the bank. A bicycle is the best way to go as far as cheap transportation is concerned but not very practical if you travel more than 10 or 15 miles a day.

And to be honest, most people will not want to use a bicycle or even a small motorcycle or scooter for their transportation needs. If you live in an area that has extended winters with lots of ice and snow, or you have a family with small children still living at home, anything but an automobile just won’t do. So how can you afford to put gas in the car when prices start to skyrocket? The answer is of course to use Hypermiling techniques to stretch every drop of fuel to its limit.

You’ve probably heard the term before but what exactly is Hypermiling? Hypermiling is the act of operating your motor vehicle in the most fuel efficient manner possible. Some of the techniques that hypermilers practice range from common sense strategies like keeping their car properly tuned, to the more eccentric strategies such as keeping the windows rolled up and never using the AC-even in middle of summer! Some of the ideas people use can be downright dangerous. Running stop signs, and tailgating the car in front of you to reduce wind resistance.

There are many different techniques people have come up with over the years to reduce their consumption of gasoline, so let’s take a look at some of them and see if there are any you can use to fight the high prices at the pump. First let’s look at the more practical ideas that just make too much sense not to implement.
   Make sure your tires are inflated to the maximum level suggested. Keep a good tire gauge in your car and check tire pressure regularly. Some people inflate tires to levels exceeding the recommended maximum to reduce rolling resistance. Be advised though that this will reduce your breaking ability and give you a more bone jarring ride, so be forewarned.

    Change the oil in your car religiously. Use one with low viscosity for best results. Most hypermilers recommend a good synthetic oil and claim that the increased cost is more than offset by the savings in fuel.

    Make sure tires are aligned and properly balanced. You will burn up much more gas if not because it takes a lot of extra energy to keep a car on the road if its tendency is to pull to the left or right.

    Empty the trunk of useless junk. If it’s not part of your emergency supplies like a spare tire and jack, jumper cables, etc. then get rid of it. The lighter your vehicle is the less fuel you need to propel your ass down the road.

    Reduce drag (and weight) by removing any unneeded, external items attached to your vehicle such as bike racks, cargo carriers, etc. Less weight and less drag equals less fuel consumed.

    Drive at slower speeds. Your vehicle uses much more fuel at 70 Mph than it does at 60. It uses even less gas at 50 or 55 Mph, so use the slow lane whenever possible. You’ll still get where you’re going, only with more money in your pocket!

Now that we’ve covered the more basic, common sense tips you should know let’s look at some of the more “advanced” techniques that will keep you rolling on past the gas pump. Remember to avoid stop and go traffic like the plague. It takes a lot of fuel to get a vehicle moving from a dead stop so always keep it moving, if at all possible, once in motion.

    Don’t drive in rush hour traffic if you don’t have to. A traffic jam is the worse place to be if you want to conserve fuel. With all of the stopping and going and all of the idle time spent you are probably getting fuel economy in the single digit range, even with a fuel efficient auto.

    If rush hour driving can’t be avoided then give the car ahead of you plenty of room and go as slow as you can when the car in front of you stops. With luck the car in front of you will start moving again before you actually have to apply the brakes. This can be a tricky technique to get the hang of because you will likely have people cutting in front of you often. Again, it’s best to avoid times of high traffic.

    Use the cruise control. If you’re like most people you have a tendency to let the speed creep up without even being conscious of it. Get in the slow lane and set the cruise control to the minimum speed that is safe. An exception to this rule is if you are traveling on a roadway with lots of hills. Going up a hill will force the cruise control to kick in and burn more gas to maintain the set speed.

    When going uphill allow your speed to steadily decrease as you ascend.  You’ll still get over the hill and then you can slowly build up your speed to its previous level.

    If not traveling too slow once over a hill shift into neutral (if you are driving a stick shift) and coast down the other side. Your engine will be at idle speed and therefore burn a lot less gas until you actually have to shift it back into gear.

1  When first taking off build speed up as slow as you reasonably can. Just because your car can go from 0 to 60 in nine or ten seconds doesn’t mean you have to. Take at least 25 or 30 seconds to get up to speed. Sometimes this just means waiting on cars to go by. Don’t jump out in front of rapidly moving traffic if you don’t need to.

1  Take the route with the least amount of traffic signals and stop signs between you and your destination. Even if you have to travel an extra mile or two you might still save gas as well as time by not having to stop and go all the time.

1  Use your brakes as little as possible. If you see a red light up ahead of you then take your foot off the gas pedal and coast up to the light. Not only does your gas consumption drop when you take your foot off of the accelerator but you buy a bit of time for the light to change. With luck it will change before you get there and you won’t even have to stop. Drive like you have no brakes at all.

1  Add a Scanguage fuel economy computer to your vehicle (1996 or newer) to track your Mpg in real time. This might well be the best thing you can do to increase overall fuel efficiency. The price is a bit high but it should pay for itself in a matter of months.

These are but a few of the many hypermile techniques you can implement to reduce your overall fuel consumption. If you only practice the ones presented here you should be able to achieve a 25 to 30 percent increase in Mpg-even in your current vehicle. If you practice and learn the many other hypermile strategies that exist you can increase that number even more.
But if you really want to double your Mpg you should not only practice these and other Hypermiling techniques you should trade in your current vehicle for the most fuel efficient auto that you can afford.  In the next article I’m going to do a roundup of some of the most fuel stingy cars on the road, and NO I’m not going to be discussing hybrids. This is Cheap- Ass-Living so I’ll only be talking about older fuel efficient autos that you can find for next to nothing.

Thanks everyone    Tex Dakota


  1. This was a wonderful post my friend. Another option would be considering "Van-dwelling" instead of driving from Home to destination. Pack up your important items and stay overnight at your place of work, school, destination, etc. keep the articles coming because I look forward to reading them....

  2. Nightshift here... Good article. Most motorcycles under 500 cc should be able to provide 70 mpg and the larger cc ones will be safe at highway speeds, Im looking at a 500 cc Kawasaki Vulcan 500 with dirty carbs for $800. Should work out.

    Wifey has a Toyota Corolla that gets about 36 mpg on my work drive. Drive it on weekends and whenever I can. Beats the GMC at 18mpg. Did I tell you I was glad you were back.

  3. Hermit, Thanks for commenting. Van-dwelling is an idea I like. I once lived in a van for several months. The key to living in a van is to live "out of" your van. For lots of good info on van dwelling and conversion check out the sites, "Cheap RV Living" and "Cheap Green RV Living". You can find em on my links page.

  4. Nightshift, Thanks for the welcome back. Got some great ideas for upcoming post. Just got to do a little research and whatnot, then actually sit down and write them. LOL