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Fuel-Saving Tips for Drivers

Driver Energy Conservation Awareness Training (DECAT)

The Driver Energy Conservation Awareness Training (DECAT) Program was developed for the US Department of Energy by the Reynolds Electrical and Engineering Company, Inc. It presents a comprehensive program for increasing driver efficiency to conserve fuel.

People are becoming more energy conscious as a result of the rising cost of fuel and the decreasing quality of the air we breathe. Conserving energy will lessen the impact of higher oil prices and our country's reliance on foreign oil imports, help the nation's economy, and improve the environment.

Automobiles and trucks consume over 75% of the nation's transportation energy supply. Since driving is such a vital part of our social and economic lives, it is important for each of us to voluntarily conserve fuel. You can “save it on the road” and stretch your fuel dollars without hardship by applying conservation techniques.

The following items, categorized into five areas, are important to fuel economy in driving.

Vehicle Operation

  • Observe the speed limit. However, traffic, weather and road conditions may require a slower speed for safety and fuel economy.
  • Extend your vision 10 to 12 seconds down the road. Tailgating reduces your chances for planning economic modes of driving.
  • Adjust your driving habits to changing road conditions.
  • Keep the windows closed at highway speeds; use internal venting or air conditioning. Avoid using the air conditioner at lower speeds.
  • Take advantage of rolling resistance rather than heavy braking to help slow you down. This deceleration technique is one of the best for fuel saving.
  • Turn off all power-consuming accessories before turning off the ignition. This action will minimize engine load the next time you start up.
  • Revving the engine just before turning off the ignition costs extra fuel and may cause engine damage.
  • Avoid idling for more than 30 seconds; restarting the engine within 8-10 minutes causes little engine wear.
  • Maintain a steady speed and anticipate stops as far ahead as possible.
  • Avoid unnecessary steering wheel movement since each sideward movement of the tire causes fuel-consuming drag.
  • Accelerate slowly on gravel or slippery roads.
  • Avoid jackrabbit starts and unnecessary braking.

Vehicle Maintenance

  • Change oil at regular intervals. Dirty oil causes added friction and engine wear.
  • Use multi-viscosity motor oil, especially where temperatures vary widely.
  • Have the points and plugs checked regularly.
  • Check the engine oil at every fill-up and the coolant, transmission fluid, and battery levels weekly. Adverse driving conditions may necessitate more frequent checks.
  • Install a manifold vacuum gauge to monitor engine efficiency and learn what readings give you best economy.
  • Keep the wheels aligned properly.
  • Make sure that the engine thermostat is operating properly. If in doubt, refer to your owner's manual or an automotive specialist.
  • Maintain tires at their maximum pressure; check pressure when tires are cold.
  • Reduce the engine's idling speed.
  • Replace the air and fuel filters regularly.
  • Set automatic choke for proper operation.
  • Check and replace the PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve regularly.
  • Check for fuel leaks at the carburetor, fuel pump, gas line and gas tank.
  • Have the axle and wheel bearing lubrication checked regularly.

Trip Planning

  • Before vacations or other long trips, make sure your vehicle is safe and economically ready for the road.
  • Consolidate several short trips into one. Avoid as many cold starts as possible.
  • Make a list of combined errands before starting out.
  • Keep a record of your gas mileage.
  • Avoid starting the engine until you're actually ready to go.
  • Use the telephone whenever possible instead of making a trip.
  • Plan your route to avoid traffic congestion.
  • Carpool.
  • Carry as little extra weight as possible in your car's trunk.
  • Park in the first reasonable parking place available.

Vehicle Choice

  • Buy a car with a high rear axle ratio.
  • Specify an overdrive transmission if available.
  • Avoid permanent roof racks.
  • Avoid wide-tread tires.
  • Consider radial tires.
  • If you own two cars, use the more economical one as much as possible.
  • Avoid power-consuming accessories.
  • Consider a diesel-powered or an electric hybrid car.
  • Choose a car with a small frontal area.
  • Choose a streamlined car.
  • Be your own automatic speed control.
  • Depending on your driving skill, cruise control may be beneficial.
  • Select a vehicle that suits your needs, remembering that an underpowered vehicle can be less economical than a larger vehicle with adequate power.

Driver Attitude

  • Always think about fuel economy while you drive.
  • Always drive for fuel economy.
  • Avoid driving when you're angry or upset.
  • Consider using public transportation whenever possible.
  • Use a bike or walk when going to the store to pick up small items.

In Closing

While it may not be realistic to expect everyone to make use of all of these items all of the time, each one can aid in saving fuel. The energy situation that faces all of us has no easy solution. It does require an effort by each individual to conserve fuel. Using as many of the suggested items as is feasible in your own situation will make a good beginning toward “saving it on the road.”

Mileage Formula

Divide miles driven by gallons of gasoline used.

Example: 100 miles driven / 5 gallons used = 20 miles per gallon.



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