Pain at the pumps? How to save fuel and money as gas prices soar
There's one certainty in a world where gas prices are averaging $4.67 for a gallon of regular.
You have the power to reduce how much fuel your vehicle consumes. And here's how:
• Dump the junk in your trunk.
"The average person has 50 to 100 pounds of stuff in their car they shouldn't be carrying around," explained Don Hillebrand, director of Argonne National Lab's Energy Systems Division. "It has an impact on your fuel economy, so if you just take that out of the car, it can be 6 to 10 cents a gallon cheaper" for gas.
• Avoid idling. If you're stuck waiting for a freight train or in a school pickup line that won't move for a while, turn off the engine. "A car will burn at least half a gallon an hour at idle," said Chicago Area Clean Cities Chairman John Walton of Wheaton. "If I sit for 15 minutes, I'm burning gas and I'm getting nothing in exchange."
• Get an alignment. "Aligning your car gets rid of the friction in the front end," Hillebrand said. "Most people are driving in cars that have hit a curb or hit a pothole, and that knocks things suddenly out of alignment. You can save 20 to 30 cents a gallon."
• Keep your tires at the right pressure. "Low tire pressure means more resistance, which will mean less fuel efficiency," Walton said. To find the right level, check the sticker on your car door or the owner's manual. Properly inflated tires translate into about 10 cents a gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
• Regularly maintain your car and listen to your vehicle. "If your car's running erratically, if it's misfiring or the engine's running rough, that typically means you're wasting gas," Walton said.
• Skip those jack rabbit starts. "We've all seen the people at stoplights. They've got to get going as fast as possible. That kind of acceleration can reduce your fuel efficiency by 20%," Walton said.
• Stop speeding. "If you slow down and follow the speed limit, the average person probably will save 20 cents a gallon on their fuel bill," Hillebrand said. "The faster you go, the quicker you displace air, which causes you to get to an inefficient point. Most cars are designed aerodynamically and for their powertrain to run most efficiently at 45 or 55 mph."
• Ditch the remote start. "Starting up your car and idling it is going to create the highest pollution you can," Walton said. "It's zero miles per gallon. Driving the car will actually warm it up faster than leaving it sitting and idling."
• Don't drive aggressively. "If you brake hard, if you accelerate hard, that can cost between 40 (cents) and $1 a gallon," Hillebrand said. Small things such as watching traffic lights ahead and adjusting speeds to avoid unnecessary stops can use your engine more efficiently.
"Expensive as gas is, it's actually in your control," he said. "You can cut those costs if you manage your car more effectively and think harder about what's in it and how you're driving."
• Carpool. Pace suburban bus company has a Ride-share program and can hook you up with a carpool buddy. Or learn more about Pace's VanPool commuting effort at pacerideshare.com.
• Check out lower-mileage vehicles. There are lots of electric cars and hybrids on the market now, Hillebrand and Walton said. But for drivers who still prefer a gas-powered model, the U.S. Department of Energy offers a way to calculate fuel usage for a multitude of vehicles at energy.gov/calc.
One more thing
With soaring gas prices, two Republican state senators are sponsoring legislation to cap Illinois' sales tax on gas at 18 cents. The rate is based on a percentage, so with the spike in motor fuel "that would be a windfall situation for the state, and we don't think it's right," Sen. Don DeWitte of St. Charles said. "Gas tanks are not partisan, and this is a real financial burden on Democrats and Republicans."
Expect lane closures on Joliet Road this week under the Tri-State Tollway near Indian Head Park. Lanes will be closed to accommodate Tri-State widening above and should wrap up later in the summer.