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REDUCING THE PAIN AT THE PUMP – Planning Ahead

March 25, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

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Yep, they’re going up again.  But, we knew it was going to happen, we just didn’t know how much or when.

I hate to do the old “I remember when” thing and start telling stories about other times fuel prices soared.  But, for those of us that have weathered previous storms and have become somewhat seasoned veterans of persistent price hikes, it really isn’t as bad as it may seem (on the surface).  We continued to pull our camper at 8 mpg with a gas engine (7.1L) 1-ton dually even when fuel hit $4.13 a gallon during the summer of 2008.  Looking back, I don’t remember the punch in the pocketbook, I remember the fun we had, and the great people we met.  As they say in the TV commercial – priceless.

For Nancy and I, the issue isn’t so much that fuel prices are up almost a dollar from last year (current $3.79 for diesel)  as it is being prepared for the inevitable increase.

Being ready for higher fuel prices is a lot like preparing for a power outage, snowstorm, or even a hurricane.  You plan ahead and when it happens you manage to get through the event with a lot less pain (and expense).

Accepting that the upcoming camping season is going to bring higher fuel prices allows for some preparation in advance.  If we get lucky and prices remain stable or drop, hey – we are still ahead of the game by being prepared.

So, just how in the heck do you prepare for higher prices?

We start by saving a little cash here and there long before the camping season even begins.  Change that is left in your pocket at the end of the day goes into a big cookie jar.  We never seem to miss those extra quarters the next day, but they add up to extra dollars in savings extremely quick.

Rather than order an expensive soft drink with lunch, ask for a cup of water.  Put the buck-fifty for the soft drink in the camping  jar.  Do you feel like dessert after a meal?  Don’t order it – put the $5.00 you will save in the bank.  I’m sure you get the idea – determine your priorities ahead of time, not at the last minute.  Ask yourself, “Would I rather have that soda or enjoy some surf and sun on the beach next summer?”

Possibly the worst thing about increased fuel prices is the uncertainty of how high they will go – and when.  We will probably never be able to predict what the cost will be for a given time, but we can predict that it will be more when we need it the most – that is a major point in “Murphy’s Law”.  Thus, it is best to plan for a worse case situation.

Simple ways to improve towing MPG.

Unnecessary weight in our camping vehicles directly translates to needing more power to accomplish the work of moving the load.  Go through your storage spaces and remove items that you will not need on a particular trip.  There is no point in hauling around two full tanks of propane for a weekend outing when one is more than enough.  That 100-pound generator is wasted fuel at a campsite offering electric power.  All of those extra pots, pans, chairs, grill, and books may not be needed either.  Amazingly, removing 500 pounds of excess weight can easily translate to that extra mile per gallon.

Don’t drive as fast.  It’s true – increased speed uses more fuel.  You can save as much as 20% (or more) on fuel cost by dropping your highway speed 10 mph.  You don’t need to tow in the fast lane at 70 mph.  Move to the right and drop to 55 or 60.  We get off the Interstate when possible and take the slower route.  But, we always check beforehand for stop and start interruptions – they can waste a tremendous amount of fuel.

Every camping rig has a “sweet spot” for fuel economy.  I did not realize how much fuel I was wasting in our gas pick-up until I bought a   ScanGauge.  The gauge was an added cost, but it was also an investment.  With real time read-outs of fuel mileage, load, throttle position and horsepower I quickly learned how to best attack uphill grades, acceleration, and what gear and speed returned the best fuel economy.  I paid for it in savings the first year, thereafter it was money in the bank.

On our pick-up and fifth wheel trailer combo a “wing” mounted on the roof of the truck and an open tailgate gave us a measurable improvement in fuel mileage.  The wing gently lifted the oncoming air over the top of the trailer.  Wings do not need to be expensive store bought items.  If you are handy with tools and have some imagination for materials, you can make one yourself for a fraction of the cost that you would spend on a new one.  Ours is re-purposed from a 20+ year old Pontiac Fiero – an item I had in the garage and was not using.  The open tailgate grill is an inexpensive  wire shelving piece cut to size.

Never pile coolers and tents onto a roof top luggage rack. Store them inside the camper.  Better aerodynamics = better fuel mileage.

Of course, having a well-tuned engine in your camping rig is important too.  The right viscosity oil for the engine, maximum tire pressures, clean air filter, properly adjusted brakes, properly gaped spark plugs, and clean fuel injectors all add up to increased fuel mileage.  Low tire air pressure is not only asking for tire failure, it increases rolling resistance and uses more fuel.  If  the manufacturer of your tires allows a maximum air pressure of 80 psi, run the full pressure (measured when cold) rather than a softer riding 50 psi.   You will find the maximum inflation pressure on the sidewall of the tire.  Your fuel mileage can increase 10% or more.

Plan your route and fuel stops in advance.  With the Internet, it is easy to check fuel prices along your route.   GasBuddy is one of several sites you can use for planning.  There are even gas price apps for your phone.  You can determine when and where you will need fuel to avoid stopping at the highest price fuel station.

Whenever possible, travel during the cooler part of the day.  Your engine will run more efficiently, you usually have less traffic and may be able to get by with less fuel mileage robbing air conditioning.

Pack a lunch or eat in your camper at a highway rest stop rather than a restaurant.  The money saved can significantly add to your available fuel budget.

We will all get through higher fuel prices.  Nancy and I are going to keep on traveling and enjoying life the way we always wanted to.

I’m putting one of those bumper stickers on the back of the camper:

WE ARE SPENDING OUR CHILDREN’S INHERITENCE


HAPPY AND SAFE CAMPING TRAILS TO ALL!

Do you camp with a pet?  Please visit my No Pet Add-On Fees website at http://vastateparkscamping.com/ or by clicking on the blue highlighted and underlined text above for information regarding camping with pets in Virginia State Parks.

Private e-mails can be sent to:  RandynNancyageeatgmaildotcom (substitute a @ symbol for the bold at and a period . for the bold dot when entering the address into your e-mail program).

Comments

One Response to “REDUCING THE PAIN AT THE PUMP – Planning Ahead”
  1. Phillip Brown says:

    Where do you get that there is competition? The oil companies have been in collusion with pricing fixing for generations. Think about it, since the first development of gasoline we have had: no improvements in refining techniques, no improvements in gasoline efficiency, no improvements in transportation methods, etc. All of these items are the result of no competition! There is no need to get better at what they do; their margins will be the same.

    My Dad owned a drilling company in the 70-80’s in West Texas. There is more oil in the ground in West Texas than the Arab’s have combined. It is all controlled by the Oil Companies and they will not release until it is profitable to ship overseas.

    I worked for Continental Pipe Line Company in Lake Charles, LA as a Pipeline
    Engineer in the 1970’s. The same methods for moving crude to and from the markets, plus the basic refining techniques are the same.

    Tell me another industry that has set dormant like the oil industry. I am sorry but I do not buy into there is nothing we can do! That is a “give up attitude” that seniors don’t need to hear. They are on a fixed income and cannot absorb steep increases in gasoline prices (100% over the past 2 years).

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