Pinching pennies at the pump

Published 8:55 am Tuesday, July 12, 2011

There are two things I enjoy most about life – hearing Virginians whine and ditto for Tar Heel fans.

Imagine then my sheer delight last week while watching the WAVY TV-10 newscast. Mixed in with the usual reports of shootings and murders that occur daily in the Hampton Roads area was a report of how high gas prices are impacting those poor folks that travel the maze of highways up in “Soreback” country.

Hey…Virginians, shut your pie holes. If anybody should be whining over the price of gas, it’s us North Carolinians, especially those of us here in the Ahoskie area where the price at the pump is always higher than our neighbors to the north, south, east or west.

Even though the price has dropped since it flirted with four bucks a gallon earlier this year, I still don’t have enough change to purchase a postage stamp after handing the clerk a trio of Andrew Jacksons.

With the rising costs of operating a motor vehicle,  I got to thinking (and that could be dangerous) about ways to pinch pennies at the pump. Here are a few suggestions:

Do not fear discount gas. It comes from the same refineries as the more expensive stuff and contains additives to keep engines clean. The only thing you need to fear at these stations is the owner whose last name contains more consonants than vowels.

Keep your vehicle in tip-top running condition. That means regular tune-ups and, for you Southern boys with the big pick’em-up trucks, wash off the mud more than once a month and remove the dog box until it’s needed for deer season.

Avoid buying higher octane gas than your car requires. For that matter, mix two parts of corn squeezings, stir in a quart of soybean extract and add four tobacco worms and, presto, you have homemade gas.

Keep your tires properly inflated. This can make a huge difference in your gas mileage – up to a six percent loss for every single pound your tire is under-inflated. For even better results, deflate all your tires, park your vehicle and walk.

Don’t carry bulky, unnecessary items in your car. Ask your wife, girlfriend or significant other to get out.

Gas credit cards offer discounts of up to five percent. For a better deal, run up a big balance on your card and then skip the country.

Avoid fast starts and sudden breaking. Those rules do not apply when running late for work and then meeting a law enforcement officer.

Purchase petro when it’s cooler (early morning or at night) to reduce gas evaporation. Better yet, siphon gas from your neighbor’s vehicle at night. That way you won’t sweat so much.

This is probably obvious — but slow down. Most cars are less fuel efficient at higher speeds. You’ll save two miles per gallon driving 55 mph rather than 65 mph. That adds up. Warning: do not attempt this slow-down method on the interstate.

And finally, in order to save gas, do not run the air conditioner. Also, do not roll down the windows. This causes drag, thus reducing gas mileage by as much as 10 percent. By combining both suggestions, you’ll sweat and, in turn, lose weight, which lessens the load your vehicle must carry, which results in better gas mileage.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contracted at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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