Myths About Gas Consumption

There have always been dos and don’ts when it comes to saving gas. I can remember way back when I was a kid, driving around in a beater and living off of $3 an hour mini um wage, that I was trying to figure out ways to save gas and the expense of car repairs. On the car repair thing, I actually took courses in small engine and large engine repair at the local community college and spent many Saturdays putting in carburetors and yanking out spark plugs. Now, many years later, I no longer drive or maintain a car and use public transportation for the most part. But I do realize that people are even more concerned these days about the cost of gasoline and car maintenance. And I also realize that a lot of what has been passed around as fact for generations is now outdated and useless. Cars today are not what they were when I drove my old beaters around, the engine compartments are cleaner and more contained, engines run on computer chips. So I thought that instead of just passing along more tips for saving gas (although I will continue to do that forever, as long I continue to find them) but today I would address some of the old beliefs which are now nothing but myths.

You remember the adage about morning fill ups? Everybody was running out early in the morning to fill up the tank because it was believed that you got more gas when the gas was cooler. The theory was that cool gas was thicker and therefor you got more of it. If you waited until after noon, especially here in Florida where it’s 80 degrees before lunch, you would get thin, watery gas. This is totally silly and is a complete myth. The temperature of gas truly changes very little, if at all, and any extra gas you may get this way is negligible . So sleep in and don’t worry about it!

The next myth is one that I bought so thoroughly that I don’t think I ever had a car that had air conditioning that worked. The belief has always been if you open your windows and don’t use air, you will save gas. The theory was the air conditioners put a big load on the engine and wasted gas. I mean, I bought this one and so did everybody else. I remember my father telling me, don’t run the air! And that’s here in Florida where, again, it’s 80 degrees and 100% humidity before lunch. And then there was the cult of dissenters who claimed that opening the windows increased aerodynamic drag and was more wasteful than running the air. The general story was that at highway and freeway speeds, 65mph and higher, open windows slowed the car down and made it work harder. But guess what? This is all bunk. In driving tests it has been shown that running the air at highway speeds reduced gas mileage by a mere 1 mpg. And the effect of running with open windows made no difference at all!

And then the third myth I lived by most of my life: a dirty air filter guzzles gas. I was always the first one in line every few months for a new filter in order to keep it from draining my tank. I would get a little burp from my car and the first thing I did was hit the auto parts shop for a filter; after all, they cost a few bucks and if you don’t get one, you will spend a fortune on gas! Well, this may have been true to some small degree when we were all running around on the older engines with very little control over the fuel/air ratio. But because modern engines use computers to precisely control the air/fuel ratio, depending on the amount of air coming in through the filter, this problem no longer exists. And it is true that reducing airflow will cause the engine to automatically reduce the amount of fuel being used. However, in actual testing, fuel economy didn’t change, but cars accelerate much more slowly with a dirty filter. So it is wise to change it fairly often, but it’s not because it will cost you more in gas.

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