Fixing the hole in my wallet, I mean, gas tank

As gasoline prices have been going up, I have been thinking more and more about saving as much of it as possible. I already take the GO Train to and from work on a daily basis, but Sandy commutes with the car to whatever school she’s at, and we drive on the weekends to do shopping, visit friends and relatives and the like.

Our car is a 2005 Chevrolet Optra5. I will freely admit that at the time we chose it, fuel economy was not the most important thing on our mind. It was present, but as long as it was going to be an improvement over the old Cavalier, it would be a good thing. Plus the car was pretty cheap and had just the right amount of cargo space without being too big. The 2.0L 4 cylinder is a bit big, overseas they have 1.6L and 1.8L engines available, but the 2.0L is made by Holden in Australia and from the research I did is extremely reliable, compared to the other engines which are made by GM-Daewoo in Korea. Oh, did I fail to mention that this is a GM import? The Pontiac Wave/Chevy Aveo, Chevy Optra, and Chevy Epica are all made by GM Daewoo Automotive Technology in South Korea.

Anyways. When we first got it I kept track of the fuel economy from tank to tank, mostly to see how the initial break-in period on the engine was going. I kept this up until around the 10,000km mark. The economy started around 28mpg but slowly improved to 32 on average. Not frickin’ stellar, but better than the Cavalier and way better than all the SUVs and minivans that my neighbours insist on driving.

But now gas is over $1/L and it’s time to do something more than just buy a new car. After reading about hypermiling I realized that driving habits are the #1 thing you can change to improve fuel economy. The vast majority of people don’t even get the fuel economy that their cars are rated for because of this. We have bad habits and they die hard.

I’ve started to change my driving habits for the better. Coasting with the foot off the pedal, avoiding using the brake, and anticipating stop light patterns are important for city driving. On the highway, I’m taming my speed-demon habits and not driving over 110km/h. The way people drive on my local stretch of the 401, this is practically the minimum safe speed. Dedicated hypermilers do all kinds of other stuff like shutting off the engine and coasting which IMHO is pretty dangerous (in case you didn’t know, your power brakes and steering require your engine to be running to work properly).

I was doing some more research on the subject and came across this excellent forum post that has a nice short list of the best things you can do to improve fuel economy. As soon as I can I’m going to check and raise the air pressure in the tires too. This post is a list of terms as well as a busted/proven modification list. It will help you to sort out what works from what is snake oil, and as gas prices keep going up (and I believe now that they will) it’s only going to get worse. I especially enjoyed this test from where the guy saves 5% economy by blocking most of the front grille and adding rear wheel skirts to improve airflow. The grille blocking seems like a really good idea too, and I know where I can get some coroplast cheap as well…

I watch my brother-and-law and his friend build up their cars for performance and power and I can’t help but shake my head… in two years they’ll be paying through the nose just to drive a few kilometres.


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