Consolidate, Minimize & Shorten Trips
The most effective technique to conserve fuel is to simply drive less. For example, instead of taking out the car multiple times to run various errands, combine the errands into one trip. And minimize these errands! Example: are there ways you can reduce the frequency of grocery shopping? We think most people can with just some advance planning (this will save you time as well). Or could you reduce trips to the post office by, say, calculating require postage at home by looking up USPS on the internet? One can take this minimize-and-shorten philosophy even farther by, for example, choosing a residence closer to work when looking for a new home to cut down on both commute time and $.
(Effectiveness: 10; Ease: 4)
Coasting to a Traffic Light
Look ahead at the traffic signal and try to anticipate what it will be when you get to it. If it is already red or is going to be red, let off the gas entirely and coast. Consider coasting in neutral; many drivers with a manual transmission already do this, but drivers of automatics can do so too.
DANGER: Do NOT shut off the car and remove the key when coasting in neutral, as this may engage the steering wheel lock!
WARNING: We also do not recommend putting the car in neutral when other cars are around, as you would want the car to be in gear in case you had to suddenly accelerate as an evasive maneuver.
CAUTION: Look in the rear-view mirror behind you before you do this. As a courtesy, start coasting later if a car is right behind you. If no one is behind you, coast as soon as you can–sometimes one can coast to a stop at a red light without touching the brake, for signficant distances.
(Effectiveness: 9; Ease: 6)
Inflating Tires to a Higher Pressure
The standard advice is to keep tires inflated to the auto manufacturer’s pressure recommendations (these are often located on the left door jamb of your vehicle). This is good advice, esp. considering over 25% of all drivers fail to do this. However, auto manufacturer’s tire pressure recommendations are often compromises between ride quality, traction, and fuel economy. For less rolling resistance and enhanced cornering capabilities (at the expense of a harsher ride), one may do an autocrosser’s trick: inflate the tires to pressures higher than the manufacturer’s recommendations, up to (but not exceeding) the tire manufacturer’s ‘Maximum Pressure’ rating on the sidewall. Keep the tire pressure differential between the front and rear tires the same as the auto manufacturer’s recommendations to maintain the same amount of understeer or oversteer characteristics as before.
Example: On a 1991 Alfa Romeo Spider, Alfa’s recommendations are to have 27 psi in the front tires and 29 psi in the rear. We regularly inflate the tires on this car to 29 front/31 rear, which maintains the 2 psi differential. Note that if greater understeer is desired, the differential can be increased; for more oversteer, the differential should be decreased.
DANGER: We do not recommend exceeding the TIRE manufacturer’s ‘Maximum Pressure’ recommendations for safety reasons, such as a blown tire.
(Effectiveness; 7. Ease: 4)
Choose a Manual Transmission for Your Next Car
When purchasing your next car, choose a manual transmission. Most Europeans do but surprisingly few Americans opt for it; are the latter just lazy? The manual will generally save 1-4 mpg per highway/city cycle over an automatic. There are a couple of reasons for this: significant energy losses occur with an automatic, and automatic transmissions tend to have less gears (usually 4 instead of 5 or 6). In addition to superior gas mileage, the advantages of a manual transmission include: quicker acceleration, no more sudden and unexpected up- or downshifts when rounding a corner or encountering a hill, and vastly more fun and engaging! Manual transmissions are usually less expensive too when purchasing new (the automatic option is usually about $500-$800.) And finally, it is not hard to eat while driving a stick, contrary to popular belief (one should avoid eating or doing anything distracting while driving, anyhow!)
(Effectiveness: 7; Ease: 4)