Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fuel Efficiency

With gas prices these days,
Every one seems to be talking about alternate fuel sources.
Some (like my dad and I) are too impatient to wait for new cars that will implement these new energy sources to be developed.
And others (also like my dad and I again) are too cheap to buy those new vehicles when they come out.
(Did you know a brand new car looses 25% of it's value the moment you drive it off the lot?)

For those of us that are either to cheap or impatient,
There are some things you can do to increase your current vehicle's gas millage.
Here are some things that I've found that work.

I own a 2001 Honda Civic EX.
I picked this car for several reasons.
First it had a manual transition.
Sticks are known for having better gas millage than an identical model with an automatic transition.
Second, Honda is known for it's durability.
As much as I like working on mechanical things, I honestly don't have time to get elbow deep in it every weekend just to keep it running.
And finally, it was the best option in the area that was in my budget.

The first thing I did when I got my car was go to Walmart and get a small notebook.
In this notebook,
I write everything that has to do with that car.
Every time I fill up the tank,
I put in the date, current mileage, miles since the last fill up, number of gallons I put in, and the total cost.
I then use this data to calculate miles per gallon and cost per mile.
This gives me a pretty good idea of my efficiency.
A typical entry looks like this.
98587 mi
354.4 mi 10.149 gl $38.86
34.9 mi/gl .110 $/mi

Kelley Blue Book says my car should get 32 mpg city and 37 highway.
And most of my driveling is city,
So this is about right.

every time I change a part,
It gets logged.
Every time I try a new fuel additive,
It gets logged.

This is the first and most important step in increasing your efficiency.
You can't know if you've improved if you don't keep a record.

I've noticed that the more moderate your speed,
The better you gas mileage.
So yeah,
I know the speed limit on that interstate is 70 mph,
And everyone else is doing 75,
And it'd be very easy for you to do 80 and get away with it,
But this will kill you efficiency.
(and yes, I have documented this fact)
Most cars are designed to be most efficient at 55 mph.
Unless you drive a corvette or a lamborghini,
In which case you probably don't care about efficiency.
During Vietnam the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act was signed into law.
It set a national speed limit of 55 mph across the entire country.
The idea was if we could force everyone to be more efficient,
It would keep gas prices down.
(Some are considering bringing back a national speed limit given the current situation)

The next thing I did,
Was add a fuel additive to clean my fuel line and fuel injectors.
I used two different kinds.
the first one I used was "RXP Engine De-Carbonizer"
I got this at Auto Zone.
The second one I used was "Lucas Upper Cylinder Lubricant"
Found at Auto Zone and O'Reilly Auto Parts.
This gave the car a noticeable kick in preformance and a documented bump in efficiency.
You can ask the mechanics at your local auto parts store for recommendations as well.

By far,
The one thing I did that increased my efficiency the most,
Was to change my spark plugs.
I'm not even sure what the car originally came with,
But when I took them out,
They were most disgusting looking.
(In retrospect, I should have taken a picture for comparison)
I replaced them with Bosch Platinum Spark Plugs.
I got four at Auto Zone for $12.99.
This has to be the single best investment I've made in my car.
I changed them out when I had a half a tank left.
And when I went to fill up the tank,
This is the entry that went in my book.
100721 mi
451.7 mi 11.528 gl $42.98
39.2 mi/gl .095 $/mi
First of all,
That's the first time I've ever gotten more than 420 mi on one tank of gas,
And the gas light on my dashboard usually comes on.
And my fuel gauge still showed at least a gallon left in the tank.
Second, that's a 4.3 mpg increase in just a day over a month.
That's a 12.3% increase in fuel efficiency.
Third, this is the first time I've been under .10$/mi since 02-APR-2008.
Seeing as how I have a 25 mi trip to school one way,
That means I'm finally paying less that 5$ daily just for gas.
I don't know about all of you,
But $5 is alot of money for a college student.
That's like 2-3 meals if spent properly.

In summary,
Things you can do to increase your fuel efficiency.

1. Keep a log
2. Get some fuel additives
3. change you spark plugs.

Unless you've already tweaked your vehicle to be more efficient,
These three things should give you a noted increase in your gas mileage.

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