Editor's Note: Mark J. Polk is an RV travel writer and video producer. To learn more, log
When I was a young man, my father owned a car lot. After getting my driver's license, I ran errands for my father and some of his employees to make extra change so I could put gasoline in my 1965 Ford Galaxie 500. At the sake of giving away my age, change for $1 back then would put about 3 gallons of gas in the tank. That was enough gas for me and my buddies to cruise the circuit downtown on Saturday night.
Many years later, I can remember telling my wife that if regular gas hit $2 a gallon at the pump, I would refuse to buy it. I also recall telling her there is no way I would ever pay $3 a gallon. Recently the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline topped $4 for the first time in our history. I am well aware that drivers in many parts of the country have paid above $4 a gallon for quite some time now, but I am talking about the average price of gas as a nation.
I have always thought it odd that gas prices increase each year just in time for the peak travel season, but those are the basics of supply and demand. In the past, when we as consumers had limited options for alternative fuels, we were more likely to be accepting of price increases. Take me, for example: I said I would refuse to pay $2 a gallon, then $3 a gallon, and now I am faced with $4 a gallon, but I am still driving. If you asked me 25 years ago if I thought I would see $4-a-gallon gas prices in my lifetime, my answer would have been a resounding no. The really sad news is prices at the pump are expected to continue climbing this summer.
Until now, most of us complained about the rising cost of fuel but for the most part didn't let it affect our daily lifestyle. But the prospect of $4 a gallon may very well be the straw that broke the camel's back. The reality of $4 a gallon is affecting our recreational travel plans for the summer as well as our daily routines. Consumers are parking the sport utility vehicles and purchasing more fuel-efficient compact and hybrid models. We find ourselves eliminating unnecessary trips in our automobiles and considering things like carpooling.
This higher cost of fuel has had a major impact on RV owners and prospective RV owners, too. Postponing RV trips, taking shorter trips and staying longer at one destination are just a few examples of how some RVers are dealing with higher prices at the pump. I, for one, don't want to let gas prices force me to stop using our RV, but when you have a motorhome or truck and trailer that averages 8 mpg, you need to consider all of your options.
Sitting around waiting for the price to drop would be a waste of time. With our dependency on foreign oil, there is little we can do about the cost of fuel, but we do have control over getting the most from the fuel we put in our tank.
After a little research, I was surprised to learn just how easy it can be to improve our fuel economy. By performing some simple maintenance procedures and changing our driving habits a little, we can save a significant amount of fuel, and these fuel-saving tips apply to your daily driver as well as your RV.
One shocking discovery I made was that each 5 mph you go over 60 mph is equivalent to paying 10 cents more per gallon. So if you're traveling down the interstate at 75 mph, add 30 cents to the price on the pump. Wow, that can add up quick. If fuel prices drop to $3.75 a gallon, you'll still be paying $4.05 a gallon.
Like everybody else, I don't like the fact that gas prices continue to escalate, but with a little common sense, maintenance and change in our driving habits, we can still save on fuel and continue enjoying our RVs.
1. Talk to other RVers who have a motorhome or tow vehicle and trailer similar to yours. Compare gas mileage. If there is a significant difference, compare notes and try to determine what makes the difference.
2. Something as simple as a clean air filter can improve your fuel economy up to 10 percent.
3. Checking and adjusting your tire pressure to the proper pressure can increase fuel economy by 3 percent, not to mention preventing premature tire wear and failures or blowouts caused by over- or underinflated tires. Tires can look normal when they are seriously underinflated. Use a quality air pressure gauge and check your tires when they're cold before traveling more than 1 mile.
4. Excessive idling wastes fuel. If you're going to be sitting still for more than a couple of minutes, shut off the engine.
5. Using overdrive whenever you can will save fuel by decreasing the engine's speed.
6. Using the cruise control whenever possible saves fuel, because it keeps the vehicle at a constant speed rather than variable speeds. Note: This applies when you are driving on a relatively flat surface. Keep in mind, the over-60-mph rule applies here, too.
7. Keeping the vehicle tuned up and in top running condition saves fuel. A poorly tuned engine can lower fuel economy by 10 to 20 percent.
8. Poor emissions and/or a faulty oxygen sensor can cause a 40-percent reduction in fuel economy.
9. Following the recommended service and maintenance schedules will save you fuel.
10. Using the recommended grade of motor oil will increase fuel economy by 1 to 2 percent.
11. Using synthetic oils will increase fuel economy by 2 percent or more.
12. Speeding and rapid acceleration reduces fuel economy anywhere from 5 to 33 percent depending on your individual driving habits.
13. Added weight that you don't need reduces fuel economy significantly. We're all guilty of this one.
14. Only using the dash air conditioner when it is absolutely necessary will save a significant amount of fuel.
15. Use regular gas unless your owner's manual specifies a high-octane fuel. You're just throwing money away when you pay the extra money for premium.