Money Saving Tips & Tricks – Your Vehicle, Part 1

Even before all of the issues started in the Middle East, we knew gas prices were going to be heading up to $4 to $5 range this summer. With the onset of the issues in Egypt & Libya, we have already seen gas prices spike earlier than anticipated & now we have no idea of how much higher they may go. Our state has already started imposing limits on their fleet of vehicles, including limiting the amount of miles the State Troopers drive in a day to 75. Unfortunately, for many of us, we do not have that luxury but there are still things we can do. In this article, we are going to look at some of those items & squash a few urban myths along the way.

Track you’re usage:

I just love listening to some people, “oh this product increased my gas mileage dramatically”, or “I get great gas mileage”, or “my gas mileage sucks” (maybe I should buy a Hummer)… Really, so what is your gas mileage…? This is generally answered with silence & then four words – “uh, I don’t know”. Well folks, if you do not know that, how can you tell or even make these statements?  For some of the items below, what really works best for you may be completely different, but without tracking it, you will never know? (Free spreadsheet & directions for tracking your vehicles & household usage)

Tire Pressure & Nitrogen:

You should check your tire pressure at least weekly; if not every time you stop for gas. Under-inflated / over-inflated tires not only reduce the tires life, but also affect your gas mileage. (TRUE)

This has led to many companies touting the benefits of using Nitrogen in your tires. (Prices range from $6 to $20 per tire) The biggest claim is that because Nitrogen is a larger molecule, it will not leak out like “air”, thus increasing the tires life & your gas mileage.  Sites like Get Nitrogen have tons of studies, scientific proof, and include a handy calculator to back this up. I simply plugged in 12,000 miles, $100 a tire, $3.75 for gas & 20 MPG & it stated I would save $148.59 a year.  Sweet, so even if I paid $80 for all four tires I would recoup that cost in just under 7 months…

Wow, that almost sounds too good to be true – so it has to be false, right? The correct answer is – it depends. I am actually a proponent of Nitrogen, but I believe the numbers to be skewed. In the case of my truck, I have not seen one ounce of improvement, or increased life. On the other side of the coin, my wife’s car did not get nitrogen added until late 2009 & its mileage increased by around 2 MPG. Why the difference & support, well the first reason is that I always check my vehicle each day, whereas she would take a week or so to fill her tires up when I mentioned that they were looking low. The second main reason is that the nitrogen works quite well & I have not had any issues with low pressure.

Car Maintenance:

You should follow the maintenance plan that comes with your car – by properly maintaining it, it will not only last longer but also run more efficiently saving you gas. Everything in that statement is true, except for the part about you must follow the maintenance plan. While following said plan will not hurt your vehicle, in many cases you are simply wasting money needlessly. Most manufacturers are now including variable plans based on where & what type of driving you are doing. Instead of stating that you should change your oil every 3K miles, it may suggest 7.5K for those that drive a lot of freeways as compared to 3K for those that do a lot of stop & go. Besides listening & watching how my vehicle performs, I know it is time for an oil change when my MPG drops which happens around the 7,500-mile mark.

Buying Gas:

  • Buy gasoline during coolest time of day… Ummm yeah, nice try – while their arguments of density & volume are sound, they have forgotten about the rest of the equation like where the gas is stored (generally underground) & how long it takes to change temperatures in a stable environment. Now if the tanks are above ground & in the sun, well then pay attention
  • Choose the brand of gasoline carefully – for the most part, you will be fine with most major brands (especially seeing most of them come through the same pipelines). With that said, in Arizona I stayed away from AM-PM’s & preferred QT gas as you could tell the difference & see it in the mileage. (Something about when they pull the gas through the lines)
  • Always buy a higher Octane gas – FALSE – refer to your Owner’s manual for the proper grade & if you are wondering whether a higher or lower level will benefit you, test it out
  • Avoid filling the gas tank as it can slosh out of it – Blatantly false as the tanks are sealed and have some room for expansion & release of vapors as required
  • I should add XYZ additive… Again this depends on if you have had dirty gas, how you’re your car is maintained, etc… but generally they won’t do you any good – while you can feel free to test them out, make sure you keep track of the mileage to see if it really does work

Computer Upgrades, Tune Up kits, and other items:

Generally, most of these items you will see on TV, etc… are just a sales pitch and do not do any good & in some cases will not only void your cars warranty, but can leave you stranded. If you are contemplating trying any of those items, stick to legitimate companies like Banks Power that have tested & proven systems.

A Clean Car…

Unless it is totally caked in mud, snow, or ice this is a not starter. Granted a few bugs, and some road grime can increase your drag, the amount though is so minimal you will never see it.

Cleaning out your trunk, truck bed:

So how much stuff do you have in your trunk, under the seats, etc…? If we are talking about a hundred pounds or more, that will definitely start to have an impact on your mileage.

The Truck Bed:

Wow, I just loving hearing all these ideas – you should install a cap, a cover, leave your tailgate up, no tail gates should be left down… The truth of the matter is it depends on what you are carrying, how & where you are driving, etc… A cap in my experience is the best option for increasing mileage, while dropping your tailgate, or using a tonneau cover does absolutely nothing. With that said, let me leave you with a great video from Myth Busters on this vary topic. (Just remember what I said above – your results may vary)

Additional Info & Websites: