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July 26, 2010

Air Conditioning or Open Windows

Open_windows_air_conditioning The dog days of summer are here and the days are only getting hotter. Nothing is worse than driving in a overheated car, the steering wheel is hot, the interior is hot, and all that hot air is difficult to breathe in. Air-conditioning is one of the great features on modern cars, but the fuel-efficiency of it comes under question. For those who are sweltering in their cars trying to save a buck, you will be happy to know that it isn't necessary — just take the freeway.

Air conditioning is actually more fuel efficient when traveling at highway speeds because open windows create a drag on the car. This drag will make it harder for your car to move foward, thus requiring more gas to get it moving. It's the opposite for stop-and-go traffic; the actual air conditioning system will use more gas than just driving with the windows down. If you can, try to bypass as much stop-and-go traffic as possible. The more time you spend at a stopped position, the more gas you waste.

If you want to save fuel regardless of the traffic situation, try these tips...

  • Turn off the engine if you anticipate a lengthy wait. Idling burns more gas than restarting the engine.
  • Keep your trunk as clean as possible. Extra weight decreases gas mileage. Also, reduce drag by placing items inside the car or trunk rather than on the roof.
  • Use a good engine oil, preferably a synthetic or standard oil treated with a friction reducing oil additive. These have been known to improve fuel economy by as much as 12 percent.

For more information on the difference on using air condition or open air while driving and more tips on how to save fuel, check out RTM's article Air Condition Better Than Open Air.

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