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Here’s how to fight back against high gas prices

Published September 14, 2012
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Our fuel prices have been steadily climbing since the spring and just lately we were hit with a jump to over $1.36 per litre for regular gas in Toronto.

In Montreal, unfortunate motorists are being gouged with gas prices over $1.50 per litre. According to our local gas price guru Dan McTeague, there is no apparent reason for the latest price hikes other than simple greed on the behalf of the big oil companies.

Prices will probably come back down for a short while but we can all bet they will keep creeping higher and higher.

As motorists we don’t have to sit back and take it and feel completely helpless. There are ways to fight back but it takes know-how and determination.

If each of us were to reduce our fuel usage by 20 per cent the big oil companies would take notice and make adjustments in their pricing to try to increase their share of the playing field and as a result their profits. A 20 per cent drop in sales is significant and would make them sit up and notice.

So how do we fight back and reduce our fuel consumption?

It is easier than you think. The biggest tool to saving fuel is located right behind your steering wheel. It is called the driver!

With some simple changes in driving habits every driver can reduce fuel usage by at least 20 per cent and more in a lot of cases. Most fuel wastage is in how the driver operates. There are also fuel savings to be found in the vehicle itself.

Here are a dozen tips to increasing your fuel economy. It’s a win/win for all motorists. Not only will it put some extra money back in our purses or wallets, it will feel good sticking it to the big oil companies.

1. Look farther up the road and plan ahead. Don’t rush up to stop signs or red lights and brake hard. Slow down gradually and the traffic light may change to green by the time you arrive to it. Accelerating from a stop uses up the most fuel. By practising good vision techniques and thinking ahead, we can reduce our stopping and accelerating. This is the biggest factor in reducing fuel consumption.

2. Drive smoother. Once up to speed, try to maintain a steady throttle. Constantly adjusting the throttle will use considerably more fuel. Your gas pedal is not an on-off switch. Drive at a steady speed in the right lane.

3. Higher speeds equate to greater fuel consumption in a dramatic way. Wind resistance increases with the square of the speed. If you double your speed, the drag from pushing your vehicle through the air increases four times. Fuel economy drops off dramatically at speeds over 100 km/h. Large vehicles incur much greater wind resistance from their increased frontal area. To further reduce wind resistance (drag), remove any roof racks etc. when not in use.

4. Avoid hills if possible. Climbing hills consumes the next greatest amount of fuel. If you must encounter hills on your route, maintain a steady speed uphill and try to coast downhill.

5. Get into top gear as soon as possible by short shifting. This can reduce fuel consumption up to 20 per cent in city driving.

6. When stopped for more than a minute, don’t let the engine idle, shut it off. Hybrid vehicles use this technique more effectively by shutting down the engine at stop lights to save fuel.

7. Avoid the “Drive Thru” line of waste. Park the vehicle and walk into the restaurant or bank. This will save fuel, pollution and time.

8. “Cluster drive” by grouping all of your driving chores into one trip. This reduces the need to start up your vehicle as often. Your vehicle’s fuel economy is at its worst when cold and on start up. The fewer start ups you have the better the fuel economy and the less wear on your engine. Plan most of your trips to avoid rush hour. I commute in early and leave early to avoid stop and go traffic.

9. Remove any extra weight in your vehicle to help your fuel mileage. The more mass your vehicles has, the more energy is required to get it moving.

10. Keep your vehicle well tuned. Clean air filters and new spark plugs etc. all help to maximize combustion efficiency. Using synthetic oils has also shown to increase fuel economy by up to 10 per cent.

11. Tires are an important part of the fuel economy picture. New tire technology can reduce rolling drag. Tires such as the Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tires can reduce fuel consumption by about 4 per cent. By using fuel saving tread compounds, these tires have a lower rolling resistance.

12. Maintain the correct tire pressures. A tire that is only 3 psi below recommended inflation pressures will result in a 2 per cent reduction in fuel economy. In other words, if three of your four tires are under inflated by only 3 psi, you could be losing up to 10 per cent on your fuel mileage! Your owner’s manual will give you a recommended tire pressure. This is probably the easiest thing for each motorist to do, but is the most ignored.

The other major change we can make is to downsize our vehicles. There are many motorists who are buying larger vehicles than they really need. Many motorists will commute back and forth to work in a pickup truck because they may need a truck on weekends. In cases like this, it makes sense to buy a small car for commuting and rent a pickup truck only when needed.

These simple changes can help you keep your money in your pocket and reduce the demand for fuel. It is not too difficult to cut your fuel consumption by 30 per cent to 50 per cent and that is significant. Usually when demand falls, prices also fall.

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