Driving Your Parents’ Old Car? Save on Gas Money with These Tips

New cars are getting more fuel efficient every year, but you don’t have to buy an expensive hybrid to get better gas mileage. Instead, you can teach your old car new tricks! There are several things you can do to make sure your aging car sips fuel instead of guzzling it. It all boils down to a little extra effort and planning on your part, but the rewards will be totally worth it.

1. Keep Up with Regular Maintenance

It may seem obvious, but many people neglect important regular maintenance with their older vehicles.

Keep tires properly inflated. Low tire pressure can hurt fuel economy, and it’s also dangerous,” says Brian Moody, Executive Editor, Autotrader. In fact, every 1 psi drop in tire pressure can lower gas mileage by about 0.2%, and you can improve your mileage by up to 3% in some cases with the right pressure. Most cars have a sticker on the inside of the driver’s door detailing the recommended pressure for each tire.

Be sure to use the right grade of oil and keep up with your oil and oil filter changes to ensure your engine runs smoothly. Replace your engine air filter regularly, as clogged filters can impact performance and fuel economy in older cars. And finally, don’t ignore that dreaded “check engine” light! A failed O2 sensor, for example, will cause your engine to run less efficiently.

2. Spend a Little Extra Time Planning

Just a little planning will go a long way in saving you gas, even if you drive an older car. It can also save you a good bit of stress and anxiety as well! Here are our top tips for thinking ahead to save money on gas:

Combine Your Trips: Carpooling and Errand Runs

Obviously, the less you drive your car, the less fuel you’ll burn. So, when planning out your week, include carpooling to work with your coworkers or friends to share the gas bill. Plan all your meals for the week, so you only need one trip to the grocery store. Combine all your weekly errands into a single trip, and you’ll end up saving both time and gas in the long run.

Plan Your Routes for Fewer Stops and Less Traffic

“Don’t spend a lot of time letting the car idle,” Moody said. “The general rule is that letting your car idle longer than two or three minutes is a waste of fuel.”

The more time you spend stopped, the more excess gas you’ll burn. Plus, stop-and-go driving burns far more gas than cruising at a constant speed. Try to plan your routes to avoid traffic lights, stop signs, and left turns. The shortest route isn’t always the most fuel-efficient, also. Consider driving outside of peak traffic hours, as more cars on the road mean more slowdowns and stops for you. If you do find yourself stopped for longer than a minute or two, turn off your engine to avoid excess idling.

Know Your Route and Allow Plenty of Time

The better you know your route, the less chance you’ll get lost and drive extra miles to find your way again. Before you leave, it’s best to understand exactly where you’re going and how you’ll get there to avoid potential wrong turns and wasted gas. If you’re headed to an urban or downtown area, be sure to plan your parking ahead of time, so you’re not circling the block over and over looking for a space.

Also, it’s very important to allow yourself plenty of time for your trip, so you won’t feel inclined to speed. The faster your drive, and the more rapidly you accelerate, the less efficient your car will be.

“Drive moderately,” Moody recommended. “Accelerate with the flow of traffic, and never stomp the accelerator. Also, when driving on the highway, keep your car’s speed steady. Speeding up and slowing down constantly wastes gas.”

All of this is much easier if you give yourself plenty of time to drive to your destination, and you’ll feel less stress, too.

Take Only What You Need

If you don’t clean out your car regularly, including your trunk, you might be surprised how much extra weight you’re lugging around unnecessarily. Even a few boxes of books can add enough weight to harm your fuel economy, especially with stop-and-go driving. A car full of stuff you don’t need is just like driving around with an extra passenger!

Also, if you have a roof rack or roof-mounted luggage carrier, take a little extra time to remove it when not in use. These add-ons can cause a surprising amount of extra air resistance, especially at highway speeds. That can lead to as much as 25% more gas burned. Ouch!

Use a Windshield Screen While Parked on Hot Days

We all know the feeling of getting in a sweltering car that’s been parked in the sun on a hot day. Blasting the air conditioning to cool off your car’s interior drains engine power and burns extra gas. So, use a reflective windshield screen or sun shade, and park your car facing the sun. This will drop your interior temperature significantly and allow you to run your air conditioning less to feel comfortable, saving fuel.

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