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06/13/2008

Are You Hypermilling?

It seems that everywhere you turn, there is a newspaper, magazine, or TV news program talking about hypermiling. So what exactly is it? Hypermilling is driving your car in a manner which maximizes mileage. Due to increasing gas prices and environmental concerns, this method of driving has become more and more popular. Whether you're trying to be earth-friendly or you want to save a few dollars at the pump, follow these tips and you can begin hypermiling, too.

1. The most obvious fuel saver is using cruise control. This handy-dandy feature cuts down on unnecessary speed changes that can use more gas. It also prevents your speed from creeping up gradually as you drive This may even prevent you from getting a pricey speeding ticket, which can in turn raise your insurance rates!

2. The next no-brainer is to simply stop speeding. For every mile per hour faster than 55, fuel economy drops by about 1 percent. The drop-off increases at a greater rate after 65 mph. Driving over the speed limit will not save you that much time and it will definitely waste gas.

3. Coast instead of braking. When you can see traffic, signs, or signals up ahead, simply take your foot off the gas and let your vehicle coast. You know you'll have to stop, why bother maintaining speed and then hitting your breaks at the last second? The gradual slowdown will not only help you to conserve gas, but it can cause less wear and tear on your breaks.

4. Find a route that's easy on your vehicle. Instead of taking the scenic route to work with hills, twists, and dips, try a route that has level roads and few traffic lights or stop signs. Generally, a longer route with superior driving conditions at a maintained speed can help your car to consume less gas.

5. Skip the air conditioner and roll down the windows if you're not on the highway. Air-conditioning can increase fuel consumption by up to 10 percent. However, rolling down the windows increases drag, which is also an enemy of good fuel economy. If you're going to be on the highway, keep your A/C on low, but if you're not driving too fast, wind those windows down and get some fresh air!

6. Don't let your car idle unnecessarily. Though at first it may seem like a good idea to let your car run while you rush into the store or coffee shop, it is a waste of gas and money. Turn the car off if you're going to be gone longer than 60 seconds.

7. Lighten your vehicle's load. The more stuff you have in your car, the heavier it is, the harder it has to work to move forward. Empty out your trunk and backseat of any items that you're not using in order to lighten the load.

8. Get an oil change. Keeping up with scheduled oil changes will help your engine run more smoothly. Maintaining adequate oil levels and using lower-weight oil can also slow how quickly your vehicle burns fuel.

9. Check your tire pressure. Tires that are low on air pressure put more stress on your engine, which in turn makes it work harder and burn more fuel. Keep a tire gauge in your glove box and check the tire pressure often. Be careful not to over-inflate tires, however, as this can be dangerous.

10. Perform seasonal maintenance. During the winter, your car could become hindered by extra weight from snow chains, snow shovels, heavy tires, and more. During the summer, you're using your air conditioner more often. At spring and fall, just before summer or winter begins, give your car a check up. Remove needless weight and ensure that the engine, A/C and other components are in working order. Make any necessary repairs.

By lightening the vehicles load, removing the pedal from the metal, and utilizing proper maintenance, you can get up to 35 percent better gas mileage. Though at first some of these tips seem to be "common sense," it's very easy to lose focus and overlook one of these actions. However, if you stick to these tips, you can drive further between visits to the gas pump. Happy Hypermilling!

Sara Duane graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris, with a BA in English in 2003. She is as a freelance writer & editor in central Minnesota.



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