There are so many consequences to the war in Ukraine, and a lot of them are way beyond our control. However, the one outcome that really currently affects most families in the West is the rocketing price of gas.
While it feels wrong to gripe about this new financial burden when people are fighting for their lives, it does call into question our current lifestyles and how we’ve taken for granted our ability to hop in the car and go from A to Z without much thought. Yet a few easy changes can not only reduce costs, but instill better habits while helping to protect God’s creation. (Note that some people — rural dwellers, or people who use their vehicles or farm equipment for work, for example — can’t do much to control fuel use, but these tips are useful for the average city/suburban driver.)
Thankfully my father used to be a driving instructor and drilled into my head these important habits, which are also echoed by the British automotive company, RAC. Hopefully they can help you, too.
1Keep your car in good condition
There are so many things that affect your car’s performance and therefore its use of gas. Giving your car a service and making sure it’s in tip-top condition helps optimize its mile to the gallon. So check out your brake pads, get some clean oil under the hood and ensure your engine is purring like a contented little kitten!
2Check your tires
Make sure your tire treads are not overly worn, and that the air pressure is correct for your particular vehicle. If your tires are underinflated it can lead up to a staggering 10% increase in fuel consumption.
3Take your foot off the floor!
While you might be tempted to drive around like your favorite NASCAR driver, it’s time to reduce your speed. By easing up on your throttle your car will do more miles to the gallon, and the added bonus is that if you happen to be in an accident, it’s likely to be less consequential if you’re driving more slowly.
Also, you know that frustrating feeling when you’ve been stuck at a red light and you’re raring to go? Well, again, it’s wiser to set off more smoothly to help save gas.
4For stick shifts
If you’re not driving an automatic then you’ll need to use your stick shift wisely. By driving around in a higher gear you’ll lose less gas. In urban areas it’s not always easy to do, but if you can use a higher gear with as low revs as possible, your fuel consumption will be reduced.
5Empty your car
Some people are prone to leaving items in the trunk of their car. If your car weighs more, it will need more power to run, which means more gas. So get rid of any unnecessary items, including roof bars and boxes that can have a substantial drag on the car and require more fuel.
If you have to brake suddenly you’ll be using more fuel. So keep your eyes on the road and see what’s ahead so you can come to a halt at a steady pace.
7Use cruise control wisely
Cruise control might seem like the perfect solution to steady driving; however, it’s optimal only in certain conditions, such as highways with a flat surface that allow for a constant speed. The minute the cruise control has to adjust itself, it has to use more fuel.
8Switch off the AC
If you don’t need your air conditioner then turn it off, as it uses engine power, and therefore fuel consumption. However, be prepared: a fully opened window will also reduce your car’s fuel economy. My dad would always say to dress appropriately so that you don’t have to use the heating or cooling.
If you need to do a number of chores, bunch them together. That saves multiple trips, plus a warm car in the winter will require less fuel than a cold car being used at different times during the day or week. (The reverse is true during the hot summer months.) Likewise, if you need to use your car, check whether anyone else in the family needs to go out. Perhaps you can give them a lift so they won’t need to make a separate trip.
10Walk a little more
We get so used to getting in our cars, but think about walking to certain destinations whenever possible. There’s nothing better that fresh air and some exercise, and if you only have to go a few blocks taking the car may not be worth it.