These … If You Want to Save Gas
Getting a car
to burn less fuel is actually pretty simple. It boils down to
make it do less work.
Here are five
ways to do do that no hybrid technology required:
AWD may be
the most oversold feature for the average motorist since 4WD.
AWD can deliver better traction under extreme conditions
including high-performance/high-speed cornering. But most people,
most of the time, do not drive under extreme conditions or
even in heavy snow just as relatively few people ever go
In normal driving,
most of the time, front-wheel-drive (or even rear-wheel-drive) will
get you there just as well and with less weight, and thus,
better fuel economy.
adds at least 100 pounds to the curb weight of the vehicle, as well
as increases the inertial/frictional load so it takes more
engine power to push/pull the car along.
As a result,
an AWD version of a given car will almost always be slightly slower
and its mileage will typically be 2-3 mpg lower.
drive really fast or drive in heavy snow, often AWD
is probably something you can live without.
save money up front as well as down the road because the
MSRP of an AWD-equipped car (when AWD is an option) is usually several
hundred dollars higher than the MSRP of the same car with FWD
and sometimes, a lot more than that.
aggressive rolling stock
The wider your
tires or the more knobby the tread (for 4×4
trucks and SUVs) the higher the vehicles rolling resistance.
Higher rolling resistance equals lower fuel economy. People seem
to like the looks of huge (wide and tall) wheel/tire packages, but
if you want to save some coin, stick with the smaller wheel/tire
package when possible.
sport (and off-road) tires tend to wear out faster and cost
more to replace than standard tires. You pay more to buy
specialty-type tires and they cost you more to drive every
time you get behind the wheel. The reality is many (probably most)
of the cars equipped with such tires are used for normal everyday-type
driving just getting from a to b.
If you dont routinely drive faster than 100 mph, or routinely
dive into corners at 20 mph over the recommended maximum speed
then you really dont need (and wont miss having) high-performance,
Or 19, 20 -inch
off-road knobby tires for pick-ups and SUVs. If the
Manly Look is worth the higher cost and increased fuel consumption
go for it. If not, stick with standard all-season tires.
Itll put money in your wallet as well as save you dollars
at the pump.
the smaller engine
This one sounds
counterintuitive, but bear with me.
a choice between a four-cylinder and a V-6 (or a V-6 and a V-8)
many people assume the larger engine will necessarily be the thirstier
one. Usually, thats true. But maybe not. An overloaded/overtaxed
four-cylinder might end up using more gas in real word driving than
a six-cylinder engine in the same vehicle subjected to the same
type of use.
example of a compact pick-up truck that offers both a four-cylinder
and an optional V-6. On paper, the V-6 uses more gas. But if the
four cylinder is chosen and worked like a Phoenician galley
slave it could be a draw, or even a net loser. Also, over
the long term, the life of an overburdened small engine could end
up being shorter than the life of a larger engine that isnt
constantly being hammered. If your vehicle lasts a few years longer
than it otherwise might have and hits you with fewer repair/maintenance
costs then youve saved potentially thousands of dollars
that way. And the bottom line is really all about saving money as
much as it is about saving gas.
necessarily skip the automatic transmission
It was once
true that, all else being equal, a car equipped with a manual transmission
used less gas than the same car with an automatic mainly
because with the automatic, there was an efficiency loss through
the slippage of the torque converter. But todays automatics
all have lock-up torque converters which establishes a physical
link between the engine and transmission when the car is cruising
along, mostly eliminating the efficiency losses associated with
old-tech automatics. Also, todays automatics have six or even
seven (or eight) forward speeds unlike the three and four-speed
automatics of the recent past designed to maximize the fuel
economy potential of the engines theyre paired with. The top
gears are often very steep overdrives that cut engine RPMs at 70
MPH highway speeds to 2,000 RPM or less. Modern manuals do that,
too. But the automatics shift smarter and more consistently
smart than most human drivers can and so return better gas
mileage. I recently test drove a new 2011 Camaro V-6 with the six-speed
automatic and its rated EPA mileage is higher than the same car
with the six-speed stick.
you assume the stick version of any new car youre looking
at is the most efficient, check the EPA ratings. You might be surprised!
power options if you can
and power options hurt fuel economy in two ways: They add weight
to the vehicle and they create load on the engine, which then burns
more fuel than it otherwise would.
going without AC is no easy thing in most parts of the country.
When the roads were not so jammed with cars and traffic and
when cars came with good venting systems (and wing vent windows)
you could survive without AC. There are still temperate/moderate
areas where it is possible to live without AC and if you
can buy a car without it, youll save money on the car and
on fuel, too. Ditto weight-adding power options, especially power
windows. Each power window requires a heavy electric motor, plus
wiring and other secondary stuff. The bad news is, its getting
hard to find any new car that doesnt already come standard
with power windows.
That plus air
bags and other safety-related technologies (including the changes
made to parts you cant see that are necessary in order to
meet federal impact requirements) have made the typical new car
much, much heavier than its equivalent of 20 years ago. New economy
cars weigh about 500-800 pounds more than the economy compacts of
the late 70s and early 80s which is the major
reason why modern economy cars still cant match the fuel efficiency
of the cars that were being built a quarter century ago, despite
all the technological advances.
we cant skip new cars
though itd be nice if we
could lighten them up some.
with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.
[send him mail] is an
automotive columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
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