Gas Pains 

Experts offer ways to save the gas in your tank.


It's a good thing Steve and Emily Helmers have a three-car garage at their Collierville home. At least the family has a permanent parking space for their gas-guzzling Trailblazer. "We've parked the SUV and bought a new Honda Civic," Emily explains. "Even with two car payments, we're still saving more than $100 a month."

Don't have quite enough money for a new car? That's okay. Here are a few gas-saving tips instead, culled from Web sites, local mechanics, and governmental agencies.

Speeding tickets aside, will I save anything else by slowing down to 55 mph?

Automotive gurus Tom and Ray Magliozzi ("Car Talk") offer this sensible explanation: The slower you drive, the slower your engine turns. The slower your engine turns, the fewer explosions in your car's cylinders. Fewer explosions mean less gas needed. Got it?

If you must speed up, try to remember this compelling statistic from the U.S. Department of Energy: Driving 55 mph gives you 21 percent better gas mileage than driving 65 to 70.

My uncle always said that over-inflating tires just a little saves gas. Any truth to that idea?

You might see a slight savings in gas because over-inflated tires reduce the amount of friction between the rubber and the road. But properly inflated tires are safer (ever hear of blowouts?) and they last longer too.

If I roll down my windows and turn off the air-conditioning, will the money I save at the pump justify all my bad-hair days?

The Society of Automotive Engineers published a study showing that it's more economical to maintain a car's aerodynamics by keeping the windows closed, especially when driving at highway speeds. Think of it this way: the air that flows into your car gets trapped in the rear window, acting like a parachute.

On the other hand, if you're doing errands around town, it's worth shutting off the AC because wind resistance is much less at slower speeds.

Are the eight bags of topsoil in my trunk hurting gas mileage?

That topsoil you bought on sale for 99 cents a bag is getting more expensive every time you fill up. It's simple science, really. Extra weight increases the rolling resistance of the car, thereby requiring more gas to accelerate.

Punching the accelerator feels so good. Does the practice really waste gas?

A smooth and slow acceleration at take off saves fuel. Period. Coasting also saves gas, so here's an easy trick: Take your foot off the accelerator as soon as you realize you need to stop. I know it's not as much fun as racing to every stoplight, but coasting is easier on your brakes and your wallet.

Should I save idling for my days off?

Yes. Idling is about wasting time, not saving gas, so shut off your engine if you're going to sit still for more than two minutes.

Does my high-performance engine really need premium gasoline?

In a nutshell, no, at least for cars built since the mid-1990s. High-performance cars will get slightly better gas mileage with premium grades, but the 20 cents price difference wipes out any real savings.

My daughter leaves the radio cranked up, so I'm blasted every time I start the engine. Is this hurting anything besides my ears?

"Absolutely," says Mike Wilkes of Memphis Motorwerks in Cordova. "All accessories -- the rear defroster, the DVD player, the seat heater -- use gas because they are being operated by the car's alternator. So turn off what you don't need."

What about all those fuel-saving devices that keep popping up on the Internet?

"Most of them are air filters," Wilkes continues. "It's all hogwash, and none of them work."

Is it worthwhile to hunt around for the cheapest gas prices?

If you have the time, probably so. Try checking out for easy price comparisons.

So should I buy an import?

If your decision is based solely on gas mileage, yes. At the top of the EPA's most fuel-efficient car list: Honda Insight for its 61 mpg in the city and 66 mpg on the highway. Honda, Toyota, or Volkswagen make every other model in the top 25.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • Kitchen Confidential

      Chef David Krog’s long road to success — and sobriety.
    • Memphis Podcasts Are Finding Their Tribes

      History nerds, black nerds, music nerds, sports nerds, and many others are building followings on Memphis podcasts.


We Saw You

Blues on the Bluff, Luna, Frank Murtaugh

News Blog

High Ozone Levels Forecasted for Wednesday

Fly On The Wall Blog

Dammit Gannett: "Where's Elvis" Edition

News Blog

Alligator Decoys to Curb Geese at Botanic Garden

Fly On The Wall Blog

When Boy Scouts are Political Props

News Blog

EPA Could Make University-Area Lot a Superfund Site

From My Seat

2017 Memphis Redbirds: Wisdom Prevails

Music Blog

Dead tribute raises awareness & donations for MIFA

Politics Beat Blog

City Voters in 2019 Will Rank Candidates 1-2-3 — and Avoid Runoffs


More by Pamela Denney

Readers also liked…

  • Memphis Burning

    The horrific lynching of Ell Persons was national news in 1917, then forgotten. Nearly 100 years later, his story is coming back to life.
    • Feb 4, 2016
  • Here Comes the Sun

    The fast growth of solar power in Tennessee offers hope in the fight against global climate change.
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • A Night at The Ditch

    Riverside International Speedway may be the most American place in America.
    • Jun 2, 2016
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation