Summer Driving

By Shawn Dell Joyce

We drive a lot here in the boonies. Everything we do seems to require a car trip and we rack up an average of 10,000 miles per year, per person (including non-drivers). Summer is an especially busy time for our cars as we head out on family vacations, and chauffeur the kids from place to place.

Here are a few simple tips to save you gas and money, and reduce carbon emissions as well.

–The U.S. Department of Energy notes that several short trips, all begun with a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as a single, uninterrupted trip that covers the same distance. Combining errands can improve gas mileage because your engine will be warm for more of the trip. It might also mean you travel fewer total miles. This one simple habit-change can save about 20 percent of your fuel and mileage, or about $260 per year.

–According to CNN, every 10 miles per hour you drive over 60 is like the price of gasoline going up about 54 cents a gallon. The most fuel efficient speed range is 45 to 55 mph for most vehicles. Accelerating quickly burns twice as much gas as keeping a slower steady speed. So does braking quickly as you lose all that momentum your car just worked so hard to generate.

–You save 1,200 pounds of carbon or the equivalent of 55 gallons of gas by implementing safer driving. That adds up to $130 per year you could keep in your pocket.

–When stuck in traffic, turn off the engine. You can lose up to one third of your fuel by idling.

–Keeping your car in top condition will save as much as 30 percent in fuel efficiency. Dirty spark plugs, or a clogged air or fuel filter will reduce your fuel economy. The Energy Department estimates that replacing a fouled air filter alone can increase your mileage by 10 percent, while replacing an oxygen sensor could result in a 40 percent improvement in fuel efficiency.

–Check the air in your tires and save up to 3.3 mph. You can find the proper pressure listed on the jamb of the driver’s side door.

–Clean out your car. Stop paying for all the extra gas needed to haul that junk around in the back seat and trunk.

–Cleaning the outside of the car reduces drag. Another way to keep the vehicle streamlined is to remove those roof and bike racks when not in use. They only add extra weight and drag.

–Of course, the best way to save gas and money is to park the car and get on your bicycle. More communities across the country are creating bike paths and bike routes to make bicycle travel easier and safer. Take your bike on vacation and enjoy getting around at a slower, healthier pace.

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

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2 Responses to “Summer Driving”

  1. Steve Stone Says:

    15 years ago I traded a job in White Plains for working from my home office. I went from 25,000 miles per year to a little over 2,000 miles per year, lower auto insurance rates, and not having to replace the car with a new one every 10 or so years.
    Not only is tire inflation important but tire selection. Next time you need new tires look for tires that use compounds that offer less rolling resistance, improving MPG.

  2. Steve Stone Says:

    .. and I missed one.. use fully synthetic oil. It is more expensive but it lasts longer, less internal engine friction which improves mpg, longevity, and reduces wear. I switched to synthetic oil in 1985. Since then the engines of my cars don’t wear out before the body and frame turn to rust.

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