We’re all sick of perpetually-rising gas prices. We’re even sick of complaining about them. So instead of jawing on and on about miserable trips to the pump and how things were back in the day, we’ll discuss the other side. Since gas seems to be worth its weight in gold, or at least pork rinds or something, here are a few obsessive ways to be stingy with your fuel, and their more practical, watered-down versions.
Ever see the inside of a race car? There’s a reason they don’t have 14” subs or back seats. It all takes more fuel to move down the track. The same applies to your commuter car, so make like Mr. Chapman and add lightness.
Obsessive: Remove the spare tire and jack. Remove the back seats. Pull out the interior panels, cut off the cat and muffler. Drop $500 on a carbon fiber hood. Drop more on a trunk lid. Scrape away the sound deadening. Tear out your stereo and replace your dashboard with aluminum or carbon fiber. Delete your A/C. Replace all glass with thin, fixed polycarbonate. Remove front passenger seat, because your car is now a cacophonous oven of carbon-dioxide/monoxide and no one wants to ride with you.
Realistic: Clean out your trunk. If you’re hauling around a floor jack back there, grab a scissor jack from the junk yard. Uninstall that massive stereo system until gas prices go back down (ha!). Not using that trailer hitch or bike rack right now? Store them. Every 100 pounds dropped could improve your gas mileage by 2%. That doesn’t sound like much yet, but paired with the solutions below, it could go a long way.
Inflate your tires properly.
Obsessive: There’s only one gas suitable for ever putting in your tires: airship grade hydrogen, the lightest element the universe could come up with. Pump it up to 20 lbs over manufacturer recommendation and your car will be skipping across the surface of the road like a Gerrid.
Realistic: A good rule of thumb is that for every pound your tires are underinflated, you lose 1% fuel efficiency. Pump them up to factory spec, usually found on your lower door jamb, and be on your way. Since rubber, despite appearances, is secretly porous, your tires will deflate over time. So check your pressure about once a month.
Drive a manual.
Yes, we know some CVTs and even conventional automatics are becoming even more efficient than the good old stick shift, but that’s not usually the case. And we have a creeping suspicion that product testers don’t drive a manual like a hypermiler would.
Obsessive: Buy a house at the top of a hill so you don’t even have to start your car until it’s at the bottom. Shut off the ignition when coasting. Rig a giant magnet to the front your car so you can properly draft behind semis – without the engine running.
Realistic: Let the clutch out when you’re coasting down long hills. Dropped down to a load-free 800-900 rpm, your engine can easily manage…okay, we don’t have an exact figure for you, but you don’t use much gas at idle.
To illustrate aerodynamic efficiency, we suggest you try the following: stick your hand out the window at highway speeds, perpendicular to the ground. Leave it there. Keep it up, kid, just 10 more miles. Now pull it back inside. Treat for frostbite. Remove bee stings. Is your arm tired? Your car uses more energy, too, ramming through all that air.
Obsessive: Get a stick-on diffuser for your trunk. Get another for your roof. No, just lose the roof. Lose the windshield, windows, and pillars, too. Cover the unused parts of the cabin with a carbon-fiber tonneau. Add on a cardboard nose cone and boat tail. Finally, smoothie hubcaps. Aw yeah.
Realistic: Many truck owners have reported an increase in efficiency with a tonneau cover. It’s suggested that even regular waxing, which you’re supposed to do anyway, will help your car slip along. And then it’s just a matter of removing existing snags. Lower your antenna when you’re not using it, lose those little flags riding your windows, unbolt your grille guard or light bar when you’re not hooning off-road.
We hawk our “initial trifecta” a lot for the performance aspect, but all three basic upgrades, intake, exhaust, and programmer, can help with fuel efficiency, too. Less stress on the engine means more power, sure, but it also means more mileage.
Obsessive: No tuning will help you here, son. Just rip out that heavy chunk of iron you call a 4-cylinder and plug in a ‘70s-era motorcycle engine. You’ll be slow off the line, and you’ll have to be pretty skilled with the clutch, but think of the savings!
Realistic: A cold air intake, or even a high-flow air filter means your car doesn’t have to work as hard breathing in. On the other end, a performance exhaust makes breathing out less of an effort. And as for your fuel maps, most consumer cars come with a single setting for everything, whether you’re towing, commuting, or drag racing. A good power programmer will come with different settings for each. You don’t need to be dumping all that fuel into your engine when you’re just cruising on the highway. Mash a button and you could be using much less.
So what are your obsessive or realistic methods for saving gas? Post them below.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.