4 Lesser-Known Tips to Save on Gas (and Some Myths that Don’t)

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As any American motorist will tell you, saving money as a driver is no easy task considering we’ve been experiencing the highest gas prices in history. Last year, we lamented when gas prices hit $4 per gallon and up; now those prices seem like a veritable steal at the pump as we’ve seen gas prices rising in the past to nearly $5 in some parts of the country.

Now drivers are desperately searching for ways to save money on fuel.

The national average for gas across the country this week is $3.50 per gallon, says AAA. According to gasoline pricing website Gasbuddy.com, Hawaii and California demand the most expensive fuel, at $4.38 and $4.03 a gallon, respectively. Fourteen of the 20 priciest cities for filling up are also in the Golden State; the lowest gas prices, a still-spendy $3.30 in Wyoming.

Much has been speculated about why our fuel is costing us so much these days. Experts say it’s on account of nations battling over Iran’s nuclear program. Western countries, they note, have been trying to get Iran to open up its borders for weapons inspections — Iran has refused, and investors, says the AP, have responded by taking back their oil contracts, in turn driving up the cost of existing stateside fuel, distilled from crude oil.

Related: Why the Government Can Do Little to Influence Gas Prices

Siphoning a Solution

There may not be an immediate solution to solving America’s overpriced gas dilemma. Even President Obama, speaking this week at a Miami energy conference, denied that a “silver bullet” exists to mitigate the problem. But there are some creative and unorthodox steps the modern motorist can take in the meantime to curb gas consumption and cope with quenching our gas tanks’ expensive thirst.

1. Keep a well-oiled machine.

The U.S. Department of Energy says that using the wrong motor oil in your vehicle can depress the mileage you get on the road. 10W-30 blend in a car designed for 5W-30? That can short you out 1-2 percent in MPGs; 5W-30 in an engine built for 5W-20 can decrease overall gas efficiency by 1-1.5 percent.

2. Don’t idle (keep moving).

Blogger Fleet Owner cites the DOE’s recommendation to reduce your car’s idling time, which can waste up to half a gallon of gas an hour (the same can be said for the opposite — driving too fast and aggressively is a surefire way to guzzle gas).

3. Set it to overdrive.

When your vehicle is engaged in second or third gears, its overall speed and output are reduced, conserving both gas and transmission wear and tear.

4. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Don’t hate on the oil companies just because you nearly spent three digits at the pump yesterday. One result of a DailyFinance survey suggested buying stock in said conglomerates to help even out fuel costs in the long run. One of the site’s readers said they bought Chevron stock and earned enough annual dividends to equal their yearly fuel cost. “That way,” they said, “the oil company pays for my gas.”

Debunking the Myths Surrounding Saving on Gas

It can’t be overstated that some of the trouble we take to squeeze more gas mileage out of our cars is all in vain. Some common pieces of automotive wisdom just plain don’t work.

Myth: “I’m a morning person,” said your gas tank.

The truth is, that unfounded piece of advice that it’s best to fuel up in the a.m. versus the p.m. is just that — unfounded. This myth is perpetuated by a belief, according to Consumer Reports, that because fluids are denser at lower temperatures, you’ll get more out of a gallon of cold gas in the morning — when the air temp is cooler — because cold gas contains more molecules. But the temperature as it exits the nozzle into your tank is negligible and makes little difference in your MPGs.

Myth: Go high-test for high performance.

It’s sad, but true. Pumping premium fuel into your Honda Civic won’t, contrary to rumor, give you Ferrari performance or enhanced gas life. In fact, it could even damage your engine.

But the opposite is often a valid, if weak choice — if needed, a car requiring premium gas can run on regular fuel. Sensors built into your car will detect the change in fuel, and economy may improve slightly, if that.

Myth: Jacking your car.

They’re marketed like steroids for your car. You’ve seen the commercials, read the claims and heard the “proof” that special gas tank pour-ins and additives will work wonders for your car’s fuel efficiency. What may result is a car imbued with a terrible case of inner road rage, and no improvements in fuel economy to speak of.

Business Fleet performed a study with one such fuel-line catalyst on a Ford Crown Victoria and determined that the increase in MPGs from 18.49-18.52 was hardly enough to qualify as saving money on gas.

Keep It Practical

Sometimes the best advice is the most obvious and overstated. Most automotive and consumer sources suggest that the best ways to conserve our car’s appetite for gasoline is to drive during off-peak hours (when stop-and-go traffic is at a minimum); keep steady speeds and use cruise control; take out unnecessary cargo and “junk from the trunk” to reduce your car’s weight and drag; and keep your tires inflated, but not over-inflated.

There’s not much we can do to combat escalating gas prices. Keeping some key pieces of wisdom in mind, and avoiding the myths, can help us cope with higher gas prices, like experts navigators on a stormy road.

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