Buying gasoline for less than $2 a gallon has been nice. Sooner or later, prices will rise again, and thoughts about saving gas are going to return.
Acquaintances will swear that they’re getting better mileage thanks to using some wonder pills in the tank, an ionizing oxygenating carbonization miracle device or even acetone. To figure out which one of these work and help save money at the pump, in addition to reducing air pollution, just ask the people who have tried everything: the car manufacturers and the Environmental Protection Agency. Both are under a mandate to constantly improve the mileage and lower the emissions of new cars.
The result: None of these work, or your new Ford would come with a supply of the wonder pills. Instead, the manufacturers shave ounces off the car’s weight, use plastic instead of metal, and put on tires with the least rolling resistance to meet their mpg requirements.
The acetone trick is downright dangerous because acetone can corrode fuel system components and cause gas leaks. Besides, it costs $20 per gallon, which doesn’t sound like money saved.
Real fuel economy, at the consumer level, can be had by focusing on four aspects:
1. Lessening the weight that the car carries. Taking that 50-pound bag of grass seed from last year’s garden show out of the trunk will save gas.
2. Allowing the engine to breathe properly. Every car has an air filter, and every air filter gets dirty. The yellow-colored ones are made of paper and should be replaced when the inside is starting to look gray. You can buy “permanent” ones, colored red, that are washable and tend to flow air better than the paper kind.
3. Letting the car roll with ease. Anybody who has ridden a bicycle knows that fully inflated tires make for less effort on the pedals. This is true for the car as well.
The temperature changes in our Southern winter “yo-yo” weather make tire pressures go up and down. Check and adjust once a week for best fuel economy.
4. And finally, treat the gas pedal as a pressure-sensitive device. Modern engines sense how fast the pedal is depressed. Moving it quickly tells the car that you’re in a hurry, and makes it use more gas. A gentle touch and slow movement of the accelerator result in the best fuel economy.
Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of Physical Science and Director of Sustainability at Brenau University.