Regular at $4.00 per gallon is already a distant speck in the rear view mirror for some parts of the country. But if you think that’s bad, in Japanland the precious elixir sells for about ¥200 per liter now, which works out to $7.57 a gallon! So what’s a car fiend to do? Here’s 9.5 ways you can save your fuel, and thus, your yen.
1. Where’s the Fire, Son? By far, driving style has the greatest effect. When you mash the pedal that extra jolt has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is the exploding dino juice in your cylinders as the engine shoots towards redline.
Our homeboy Issac Newton’s First Law of Motion says that a body in motion tends to stay in motion; a body at rest tends to stay at rest. So while few things in life are more fun than stomping on it as you snick through the gears, just know that there’s a price to pay when you indulge.
Also, if you have cruise control, use it.
2. Look, Up in the Road, Ahead! If you’re approaching traffic or a red light, lay off the accelerator. Better yet, try to learn the light patterns on frequently traveled streets. For example, you can see from a distance if the Don’t Walk signal is flashing for pedestrians traveling parallel to you. That means the intersection you’re approaching is about to get a yellow, so let off the gas. If it changes back to green before you come to a full stop, even better!
3. Under Pressure. Fill up your tires to the proper psi. A soft, fat bulge of sticky rubber creates more friction with the asphalt, requiring more power to overcome. And with great power comes great fuel usage (See #1). Don’t believe us? Let 20psi out of your tires and try pushing the car. Just make sure you have an air compressor handy.
But don’t go trying the opposite either. Overinflating may reduce the area of that contact patch, but, like underinflation, will prematurely wear out the tires. Plus, it reduces the effectiveness of other important functions, like braking, and the risk of a potential accident will surely offset any savings at the pump.
4. Weight Watching. It’s the reason why racers gut their cars and replace body parts with carbon fiber. The fewer stones you’re lugging around, the fewer gallons you’ll burn. So get that dead body out of your trunk and take up jogging. You might see handling, braking and accelerating improve as well. Come to think of it, jogging uses zero miles per gallon, so it’s a win-win.
4.5. Tank Half Empty. As a corollary to #3, a gallon of fuel weighs about 6 pounds. If you only fill half of your 18-gallon tank, that’s about 54 fewer pounds of weight you’re lugging around. But as you know, time is money too.
5. Rollin’ on 14s. Having a set of big, flashy dubs might look cool, but increased rotational mass means more work/power/gas to make them turn. To understand rotational mass, just tune in to The Price is Right and watch a 78-year-old lady try to get into the Showcase Showdown by spinning that giant prize wheel. Remember, the it has to go all the way around. Fortunately for us nostalgists, we like to roll on 14’s.
6. Watch Your Carbs. With stock-ish setups it’s all about maintenance, but with modified engines, esp say with Solexes or Webers, it’s damage minimization. Lots of weber setups will disconnect the vacuum ignition advance which will hurt economy a lot. However, it’s hard to get it to work, and most Weber conversion guys just live with the extra fuel consumption.
Attention should be paid to jetting, there can be a 10mpg difference between right and wrong, so fine tuning the jet sizes with a dyno session is a good idea. Not only will it improve economy but make more power too. Also, when choosing carb setups it’s important to choose a carb size that matches the powercurve of your engine and the likely driving style you have.
But at the end of the day, if you can get your Triple Weber L-series up to 20mpg, that’s already pretty good!
7. Cooling the Gang. The air-con unit operates by using the engine’s power to run a compressor, which – you guessed it – uses more fuel. However, on modern cars that have been designed with endless wind tunnel testing, opening the windows can actually lead more fuel usage because of the drag created by the parachute effect.
So what we would recommend is to heed the following mnemonic device that we just made up: when cruising in town, roll your windows down; when driving real fast, put your a/c on blast.
8. False Idling According to this article, if you’re idling for more than 10 seconds you’re better off shutting down the engine. That is, if you drive a car with modern electronic fuel injection. For a carbureted nostalgic, that threshold can be counted minutes, not seconds.
Come winter you’ll surely hear the old saw about warming up your car. The purpose of this is that materials expand as they heat up and you want this expansion to be gradual, not sudden or you can severely damage price engine bits. But go ahead and drive it at low RPM to get the engine up to operating temperature; just don’t go around flooring it (which you shouldn’t be doing anyway if following #1).
Unfortunately, for a carbureted car you’re beholden to the choke.
9. Replenish Vital Fluids. Chances are that transmission and differential lube hasn’t been changed in a long, long time. Not only are those fresh liquids just as important as motor oil for the longevity of those parts, they make them move more smoothly, reducing friction in the drivetrain. You might even notice you can slide the shifter into gear a bit more easily.
-by Ben and Kev