The Top Ten Ways to Save Money on Gas & Car Repairs

Apr 09

Over two hundred years ago Benjamin Franklin stated: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” There probably weren’t a whole lot of cars back then, but if ol’ Franklin were alive today, he probably would have added “rising gas prices” and “car repairs” to his litany of despair.

So in these difficult times, how do you save cash and keep your car from turning into a mobile money pit? For those of us who give that little extra squeeze to top off our gas at the pump, here are the top ten ways to save money on gas and car repairs:

10. Take things off your car that reduce drag

Are you over that biking kick but still have the bicycle rack rattling around on the top of your car? Well, it’s probably time to take it off (plus, it makes you look like a tool). While it might not seem like it, wind resistance can cut down on fuel efficiency in your car. Sure, it’s pennies saved, but pennies turn into dollars, and if you’re reading this article, then you know that saving fuel makes cents (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

9. Don’t Use the air conditioner if you don’t have to

This might be more than slightly masochistic if you’re in Arizona or Texas during the summer, but for the rest of us, it’s probably worthwhile to roll down the window to avoid relying too much on the air conditioner.

In this oft debated topic, it’s worthwhile to mention that the air conditioner in your car does not directly use fuel. However, your car’s engine will turn on the air conditioner’s compressor via a belt, which in turn, strains the motor a bit and ends up in the use of additional fuel. But if you don’t care about that little lesson in mechanics, then just think of turning on the air conditioner as renting cold air.

8. Don’t carry unnecessary weight

Hear that bowling ball rattling around in your trunk next to that cooler full of drinks you forgot to take out last week? It may not seem like it, but extra weight does cost you in fuel efficiency. So now you have one more reason not to drive your mother-in-law around.

7. Have your tires balanced once a year

Unbalanced tires wear their tread more quickly, leading to replacement costs. In addition, if your car is unbalanced, your suspension system and shock absorbers can be damaged. This can easily lead to costs that far exceed the price of balancing your tires.

6. Always use the right grade of motor oil

Think of your car like a professional athlete. If you want it to perform at its optimal capacity you can’t feed it burgers and fries each day and expect it to run a marathon the next. Incredibly weak metaphor aside, it’s important to “feed” your car high quality motor oil that matches the grade recommended by the manufacturer. Using the correct motor oil can improve gas mileage by up to 1-2 percent. And motor oil that is labeled as “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol on the container will further improve efficiency through friction-reducing additives.

5. Make sure your tires are properly inflated

Ok, President Obama inspired a lot of guffaws when he suggested this several years ago during his State of the Union Address, but politics aside, the guy was right. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, properly inflated tires can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent. Meanwhile, under-inflated tires can lower your gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure per tire. I guess that it takes a politician to tell us that being full of hot air is a good thing.

4. Check your air filter

When your air filter gets filled with goop and gunk it doesn’t allow for the even flow of air into the engine. This will eventually harm your car’s engine and reduce your fuel efficiency. To check your car’s filter, take it out and hold up to the sunlight. If you can’t see through it, it’s time to get a new one.

3. Drive your car at an even speed

Hey you! Lay off the gas lead pedal! Every time your car speeds up and slows down it has to work harder than if it was at a constant speed. Want proof? Just watch the professionals. Any trucker will try to keep his rig cruising at near continuous speeds to avoid paying excessive fuel costs.

2. Anticipate and Avoid High-Traffic Conditions

If you live in Los Angeles, you probably want to slap me right now because this advice smacks of the over-redundant efficacy of a mother telling her grown children to eat their veggies, but it’s true. Checking ahead on traffic conditions before going out and selecting alternate routes or times when there will be less traffic will not only save your on gas, but it may just save you your sanity. Plus, wouldn’t you rather wait and read a book than suck fumes while clawing at your steering wheel when a tiny fender-bender ahead of you reduces the freeway into a parking lot?

1. Walk

Why is this the number-one way to save money on your car? Because it is often the most ignored! Many people will drive to their mailbox rather walk a hundred yards or to the market when it is just a few blocks away. Take the time to walk and you’ll not only be reducing wear and tear on your car and saving on gas, you’ll be reducing pollution and getting healthy. This might not exactly be a car tip, but it’s certainly a way to save on gas (and something good ol’ Ben Franklin could relate to!).

Got any tips of your own on saving money on gas? Share the wealth in our comments section!

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