Whether you drive a big motorhome or a compact car, everybody is talking about fuel prices these days so I thought I would dust off a blog I published a while back with ideas to help lessen the impact to some extent.
All men are not created equal, nor are all fuel prices. RVers have a few tools at their disposal to help save money by filling our tanks at the lowest available price. Websites like Gas Buddy list the lowest gasoline prices in your local area. Pilot and Flying J truck stops update both their gasoline and diesel prices daily on their website at https://pilotflyingj.com/fuel-prices. When starting on a trip, RVers can check fuel prices in their current location and along their route. Many times fuel prices will differ by fifteen to twenty cents a gallon from one state to the next. By checking before you leave, you can avoid overpaying for fuel and then finding it at a reduced price a few miles down the road.
Some RV clubs and other groups provide their members with discount programs that can lower the price at the fuel pump. Good Sam Club members can take advantage of gas and diesel discounts at Pilot/Flying J.
Discount warehouse stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club usually have lower fuel prices overall, and membership can result in savings on fuel purchases. Often we have found fuel prices to be several cents a gallon cheaper a couple of blocks away from the interstate, compared to stations just off the exit. In our area, Buck-ee’s and WaWa always seem to have the lowest prices around.
Some credit cards offer rebates or discounts on fuel purchases. Check with your credit card company to see what they may offer.
Besides purchasing fuel wisely, properly maintaining your vehicles can save you money when you pull up to the fuel pump. If you have a gasoline engine, keep it tuned up for maximum efficiency and the best fuel economy. Many mechanics tell me that switching to iridium or platinum-tip spark plugs can help maintain your engine’s peak performance for far longer than standard spark plugs, even under strenuous driving conditions such as pulling heavy trailers and climbing steep grades. Though they cost more than standard spark plugs, the premium models last much longer. Replace air filters and fuel filters as provided by your vehicle manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. An engine that breathes better uses much less fuel.
In both gasoline and diesel engines, synthetic lubricants help reduce friction, wear, and fuel consumption, and extend your engine’s life. Even if you currently use conventional motor oil, switching to synthetic oil can be done at any time. Be sure to follow your manufacturer’s recommendations for oil grade, viscosity, and oil change intervals to protect your warranty. Synthetic automatic transmission fluid and other lubricants are also available and provide improved performance.
For motorhome drivers, it is better to use your vehicle’s dash air conditioner when on the road, instead of operating the rooftop air conditioning units off of your generator. Your motorhome’s engine is running anyway, so why have that genset burning more fuel at the same time? Some motorhome drivers hang a clear plastic sheet or drop clot, which can be purchased inexpensively at any discount store, behind the driver’s compartment to keep the cold air up front while on the road, instead of trying to cool the entire coach.
Many drivers lose money and fuel mileage where the rubber meets the road. Under-inflated tires create more drag, forcing your engine to work harder to move your vehicle. It is a simple fact that a circle rolls easier and smoother than a square. Properly inflated tires also give a better ride, carry more weight, and last longer. Purchase a quality tire air gauge and check your tire pressure before each trip.
Radial-ply tires create less rolling resistance than bias-ply tires. Be aware that if your vehicle has bias-ply tires, your current wheels may not work with radial tires. Tires with highway tread patterns also contribute to better fuel economy, compared to mud and snow tires with deeper lug patterns.
The best thing you can do to conserve fuel is to drive slower. Fuel mileage drops drastically the faster you drive. Driving 55 miles per hour instead of 65 can save as much as 20 percent of your fuel. Slow down and enjoy the view and the fuel economy!
When driving in mountain country, know your vehicle’s personality traits. Our MCI bus conversion had a four-speed Allison automatic transmission. On a steep climb, the transmission would shift itself from fourth to third gear at about 45 miles per hour. However, by then the engine was lugging and we had lost a lot of momentum. A glance at my tailpipe showed black smoke coming out. That black smoke is unburned fuel. I learned to manually shift the engine down to third at 50 miles per hour, which kept our speed up and saved fuel.
If your vehicle is equipped with cruise control, using it will result in better fuel economy. But be aware that for safety in certain driving conditions, such as in rain or snow or in mountain country, cruise control should not be used.
While tailwinds seldom seem to exist for RVers, the rare occasions we do get so blessed contribute to fuel savings. Of course, the other side of that coin is that a headwind (and we all know how frequent those seem to be) will greatly reduce fuel economy. Slow down when you encounter headwinds. You’ll enjoy a safer, more comfortable drive and reduce the adverse effects of the wind on your mileage.
Rooftop storage pods create drag that reduces fuel mileage. Evaluate whether the advantages of that rooftop storage are worth the adverse impact on your mileage. Drivers of pickup trucks and SUVs that tow trailers can benefit by a roof-mounted wind deflector.
Towing a dinghy always impacts fuel mileage. For short trips, leaving your dinghy behind can be advantageous. Consider using bicycles or a scooter for local transportation when possible.
We can’t control fuel prices, but we can drive smarter and use less, lowering the impact of skyrocketing prices on our travels and depriving the fuel pump bandits of at least some of their high profits at our expense.
Congratulations Keith Trantow, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Scandal, the fifth book in my Big Lake mystery series. We had 47 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.
Thought For The Day – Be nice to retail workers this week. It’s not their fault you waited until Mary’s water broke to start your Christmas shopping.