Beating my mom


Don’t get the wrong idea – I’m talking about a contest.

My family has always been into fuel economy. My dad started our focus by keeping track of fuel economy in a little book that stayed in the glovebox. Every time he filled the tank, he would figure out the gas mileage. My mom continued that tradition, all the way till just before she died, about twenty years after my dad passed away. I did it until I got married, about 20 years ago. Heather couldn’t be bothered with that habit, so I ditched it in the interest of fidelity.

We inherited my mom’s Toyota Corolla, due to the generosity of my three siblings. It’s a basic model – with a 3-speed automatic transmission – not the best fuel-saving option.

Mom got in the low-to-mid 20s. I have kept track since getting the car, and we have consistently gotten in the low 30s. Why? I can’t be sure – I hadn’t been in a car while she was driving since maybe high school. But I can tell you the ways I save fuel…

  • Treat the accelerator pedal like it’s your enemy. When you see a stop light ahead, immediately take your foot off the pedal. Anticipate slow-downs in traffic and take your foot off the pedal whenever you see a slow-down ahead.
  • Treat the brake pedal like it’s your enemy. Coast to a stop when possible.
  • Put it in neutral when you are going down a big hill. (Combining this with the brake-enemy measure may be dangerous. And try not to break the speed limit!)
  • If you’re at a traffic light that waits two minutes to change, shut your engine off before the beginning of the cycle. (At the end of the cycle, be sure to start it quickly enough that your neighbors behind don’t know you had it off!)
  • If you have a ski rack, take it off. Those sap mileage due to the aerodynamic drag they create.

I have many more tricks, but I didn’t want to take up your whole day.

I admit most of these measures are extreme. And they will require retooling your brain to make them work well. You will need to exercise caution at all times. When traffic is thick, you’ll have to quit doing most.

Have fun! Your results may vary.