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Ask Mechanic Shop Femme: How Do I Save Money at the Pump and Should I Buy 'Better' Gas?

Illustration for article titled Ask Mechanic Shop Femme: How Do I Save Money at the Pump and Should I Buy Better Gas?
Image: Andrea Piacquadio (Pexels)
Mechanic Shop FemmeChaya Milchtein is an automotive educator, writer, and speaker. She'll be here every other week answering all your car questions. Need to know what engine oil you need? She's got you covered. Wondering what gas your car really needs? She has an answer. Let's untangle cars together.

We all want to take care of our cars to the best of our ability. While fuel costs are currently low across the United States, they will rise eventually. With so many Americans out of work, saving money wherever possible is more essential now than ever. What steps can you take to save money at the pump? Should you spend money on buying premium fuel?

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There are easy ways you can improve your car’s fuel efficiency. By doing simple maintenance and changing some habits, you can save some money and treat your car a little better too. Let’s first cover those and then we’ll talk about premium fuel.

Proper Tire Pressure

If you’ve read my writing in the past, you know how much I talk about proper tire pressure. Proper tire pressure can save you money in a whole host of ways, including increasing your fuel efficiency. According to the US Department of Energy, on average, making sure you have the right tire pressure will save you 0.06% at the pump. If you don’t have a tire pressure gauge or inflator, consider investing in one.

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Limit Warming Up

I know, I know. When it’s hot outside, I also don’t want to get into a boiling hot car after a long day working. However, not only is it bad for the environment to warm up your car for a significant period of time, it costs you fuel and doesn’t benefit newer cars at all. It is also illegal in some jurisdictions.

Easy on the Accelerator

Slow and steady wins the race. It also helps you save money on gas. Slow down early when you see a light turning red or traffic ahead. Ease off the brakes and onto the accelerator when pulling off. Simple steady driving will increase your fuel efficiency.

Illustration for article titled Ask Mechanic Shop Femme: How Do I Save Money at the Pump and Should I Buy Better Gas?
Image: Mídia (Pexels)
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Change Over Your Winter Tires in Spring

If you’ve invested in winter tires, don’t forget to change them over once it stops snowing. Winter tires are not as efficient and they aren’t made for driving during the rest of the year. They will wear faster and decrease performance if used for driving they are not intended for. If your winter and regular tires are on different sets of rims, you could swap them out yourself if you are confident in your mechanical abilities. I don’t normally recommend the DIY approach, but some people are willing to risk the consequences to learn and save some money.

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Don’t Wait to Fill Up

Have you ever been low on gas and dipped into the first gas station you see? Changing this habit will allow you to better plan for the best prices. If you plan to get gas at around 1/4 or a tank, you can strategies for purchasing fuel along your route at the lowest prices.

Use the Recommended Oil

If you know any DIY car expert, or your dad is an old school car guy, you’ve most likely heard them recommend all kinds of things. Oil changes seem to be a source of many divided opinions. That aside: The US Department of Energy is clear on the subject of oil and fuel economy. Using the wrong viscosity oil will lower your fuel efficiency by 1-2%.

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Should I Spend Money on Premium Fuel?

The short answer is no.

Unless your car requires or recommends for premium fuel, the cost benefit analysis is clear. In a 2016 study done by AAA, they found that Americans waste on average $2.1 billion dollars filling premium fuel they didn’t need.

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Not just that. AAA studies indicate that while in cars that recommend but don’t require premium fuel there is a small benefit, it’s not ultimately worth the cost.

If you want to spend money on your car, focusing on simple maintenance like replacing your air filter, pays off better in the long run.

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Chaya Milchtein is an automotive educator, freelance writer, and empowerment speaker who's made it her mission to engage and empower people in her community and beyond.

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