Gas prices: How your driving behavior impacts costs at the pump

Gas prices: How your driving behavior impacts costs at the pump

Record high gas prices have created stress for motorists across the nation, and many experts expect prices to remain elevated in the near future as demand for summer travel heats up. 

On Thursday, the national average retail price for regular gasoline surged to another record high, hitting $4.41 per gallon. 

While you may not be able to control the prices at the pump, you can control how you drive. Certain driving behaviors can actually help consumers save significantly when it comes to filling up at the pump, Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, told FOX Business. 

Gas prices March 11, 2022, in Long Beach, Calif.  (AP Photo/Ashley Landis / AP Newsroom)

It’s the “easiest” thing to do when trying to combat those rising fuel costs, he said. 

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Keep your tachometer as low as possible

De Haan says drivers should keep feet light on the gas when accelerating. The heavier you are on the accelerator, the more fuel your engine is using, he said. 

The tachometer should be used as a gauge for drivers to see how much fuel they’re actually using, according to De Haan. 

The tachometer measures the working speed of an engine in RPMs, or rotations per minute. It is located next to the speedometer on a vehicle’s instrument panel. 

“The higher the needle goes, the more gas your engine is guzzling,” De Haan said.  

The objective is to keep your tachometer as low as possible and not to “bash on the pedal,” De Haan added. 

gas prices

Cars crowding the turn lane into Murphy Express at Beal Parkway and Racetrack Road as gas lines started popping up at numerous gas stations around the Fort Walton Beach area in Florida. (USA Today Network via Reuters Connect / Reuters Photos)

It’s also important to keep the speed of the car under control because speeding increases fuel consumption. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, gas mileage will decrease “rapidly at speeds above 50 MPH.” 

The best way to control speed is using cruise control. Although cruise control may not be useful in some congested parts of the country, like New York or Chicago. 

However, the feature can be “more effective and efficient than a human trying to maintain the same pressure on the gas pedal,” according to De Haan. 

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Maintenance: Make sure your check engine light is not on 

If you have a check engine light on, especially if it’s flashing, it should be checked as soon as possible. A lot of sensors on cars are critically important, but the check engine light is the “most critical,” according to De Haan.

When the light is flashing, “it’s basically telling you that it’s in distress,” De Haan said. 

The car essentially goes into “limp mode,” which means “the car has lost some critical sensor or something is critically wrong and … is basically using up to twice as much fuel to protect itself from catastrophic damage,” De Haan added. 

Another thing motorists should be checking is tire pressure. 

Illinois gas

A man checks gas prices at a gas station in Buffalo Grove, Ill., March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh / AP Newsroom)

When a tire loses air pressure, there is more friction between the tire and the road. That increase in friction will lower a car’s fuel efficiency, according to De Haan. 

Removing access weight 

Leaving heavy objects in the back seat or truck of a car can also hurt fuel efficiency. In fact, every hundred pounds will reduce fuel efficiency by one to two miles per gallon, according to De Haan. 

Racks that sit on the roof of cars, typically in the summer or winter months, are also working against drivers. Those racks will “absolutely destroy the aerodynamics of your vehicle” and drive down fuel efficiency by 25 to 35%, De Haan said. 

“They’re just like a mattress on your roof,” he said. “Your car is working harder to offset that object on the top of your car.” 

Keep an eye on your AC this summer 

When the air conditioning is running in your car, “you’re generally putting more of a load on your engine. You’ll burn a lot less fuel if you crack a window instead, according to GasBuddy. 

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MYTH: It takes more gas to restart your car 

That may have been true 30 years ago, “but that’s why vehicles have adopted that start stop technology,” according to De Haan. 

In fact, if you’re going to be sitting in traffic more than 10 seconds, it makes more sense to shut the vehicle off. 

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