Explaining gas pump myths

With gas prices rising by nickels and dimes every day, each trip I take to gas station is increasingly depressing.  The cost to fill up my tank is a full $15 more expensive than it was at the beginning of the school year.  As gas approaches $4 a gallon, I my lunches off campus and daily trips to Dunkin’ Donuts continue to gradually decrease in number.  In lieu of these decisions, I have compiled a list of the most common gas myths, and want to offer advice on how to travel the furthest with the least amount of gas.

1. Only buy gas in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold – FALSE

One of the most common gas myths involves the time of day consumers should buy gas.  According to the rumor, gas expands in your tank as it gets hot and evaporates, so the earlier in the day (and the cooler it is outside), consumers can pump more gas for their money.

There is some truth to this myth: when the car is cool, there’s less evaporation within the gas tanks while you are refueling.  With the exception of extremely hot summer days, gas (which is usually stored in underground tanks) stays the same temperature all day.  In the end, however, the evaporation factor makes up less than one percent of gas bought over the course of a year.

2. Do not fill up when a gasoline truck is re-filling the storage tanks – TRUE

If you ever have the unfortunate experience of pulling up at the gas station when the huge gas trucks are there, you now have one more reason to turn around.  As new gas is poured into almost-empty tanks, dirt and particles that previous settled on the bottom is stirred up, and can easily be siphoned into your gas tank.  Though many new cars now have filters to prevent this issue, it is better to be safe than ruin your engine.

3. Using the air conditioning significantly decreases gas mileage – FALSE

When I first got my car in March of 2010, my parents gave me a a few gas-saving pointers, and this was one of them.  My mom said to roll the windows down whenever possible, so there was less strain on the engine and battery.  But according to Michael Calkins, a manager at AAA, running the air-conditioning does not significantly decrease gas mileage except on the highway.

Contrary to popular belief, putting the windows down instead of running the A/C may do more harm than good.  The drag created by the open spaces causes the engine to work harder to move, resulting in about ½ a MPG worse fuel economy.

4. Use premium gas for better gas mileage – FALSE

It is rumored that paying the extra twenty cents for premium gas can positively influence your gas mileage.  AAA’s Calkkins advises people to simply follow their owner’s manual, but the recommendations offered by the dealership are not the necessity.

On all cars made since the 1980s, using premium, mid-grade, or regular fuel will work.  It may slightly decrease your performance, but as long as you aren’t towing a trailer, pulling a boat, or racing, it is unlikely that you need one hundred percent of your engine’s power.

5. You should turn your car off then restart it instead of idling in traffic – TRUE

I never personally heard this one, but after doing some research, I discovered that many people believe in it.  The anti-idling campaigns pushed by environmentalists are not for nothing – idling uses¼-½  gallon of fuel in an hour.  Unless you are sitting in stop and go traffic, turn off your car then restart it when traffic starts moving again.

Hopefully my myth-busting will save students (and their parents) gas money, so they can spend their money on more important things, like graduation gifts, trips to the beach, and dorm-essentials.


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