Energy tip #5: use the right motor oil

motoroil.gifFeed your engine the right fluids and you will improve performance. That’s why a healthy portion of us opt to fill up with a cup of leaded coffee in the morning.

If you want to give your car a boost and are in the mood to save money, checking to make sure you’re using the right motor oil could help to pad the pocket and please your auto’s underbelly at the same time.

Next time you’re at the gas station, pull out your owner’s manual. Flip to page E-12 (pass the part about filling up your tires to the right pressure) and check to see if the 10W-30 you’ve been using is the oil that your engine really wants. If not, you’re in line to gain up to 2% in increased gas mileage.

It might not sound like a lot, but let’s see the where the numbers lead us (detailed spreadsheet here):

Miles per year: 12,000
Avg. MPG: 19.6
2% increase in MPG: 19.9
Gallons saved: 11
$/gallon: $ 3.00
$ saved/year: $ 31.59
lbs. CO2 saved: 206

The nice thing about changing to a different oil is that it doesn’t cost a dime. So that’s $31.59 squirreled away for a rainy day.

If you happen to be travelling overseas this summer, you can use this stash to finance an Intercontinental flight offset and fund 7,500 more pounds of CO2 reductions, bringing your cumulative total to 7,706 pounds of CO2. And that’s how you can put a meager 2% savings to good use.

Proper respect to everyone who voted last week on Tip #4. 86 people out of 117 committed to air drying a load of laundry. If everyone had the same experience I did, it was remarkably painless and surprisingly fast (your shared experiences welcome). Now, if we can get all 86 to do this for half of their loads for an entire year…we’d save 87,376 lbs of CO2. Enough to take at least 7 cars off the road. That’s not too shabby y’all.

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  1. Anonymous - August 2, 2006

    I’ve been air-drying every load of laundry for the past couple of weeks now – it IS painless! Saving $$$ too!

  2. disdaniel - August 2, 2006

    Does TerraPass have an opinion on fuel additives that are supposed to clean your engine, reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency? As in, do they work? (have you tried them? talked to someone that has?)
    What age/mileage, type of vehicle would get the most improvement?

  3. lisa - August 2, 2006

    This probably only works in dry climates, but you can get a double-whammy by drying your clothes on a wooden rack inside the house. Since you’ve washed your clothes in cold (right?), they’re already cool. Space them out on a rack near a window, and they act exactly like an evaporative cooler, refreshing at least a 20×15 living room. My clothes dry in 3-4 hours, and i’ve got the rack set up in a room my swamp-cooler doesn’t do much for. Timing your laundry so the air-cooling can help you postpone turning on the real cooler [or A/C] is even better. If you HAVE to use the dryer, get some of those nubbly dryer balls instead of Bounce sheets and run the machine on low at “less dry” – cuts run-time by two-thirds and works like a charm even if it’s a bit noisy. The surprising thing is even when I’m strapped for time, I enjoy dealing with this drying method waaaay more than the mad dash to get clothes out and folded before they wrinkle (irons hate me). Drying racks cost $30 to $50, and a decent one is worth it.

  4. Tom - August 2, 2006

    Fuel Additives are typically a waste of money. See

    for more info.

  5. James - August 2, 2006

    If you’re driving a Honda/Acura, you’re most likely supposed to be using 5W-20. I believe there are also a few other car manufacturers who have also switched to this thinner oil.

  6. cheryl - August 2, 2006

    i’ve been air drying over 95% of my laundry for over a decade. not only does it save energy, my clothes etc last years longer not suffering the abuse of the dryer’s heat!

    i don’t currently have space for hanging the large quilts and comforters or i’d air dry those too.

  7. Jack - August 2, 2006

    Well I have always dried my clothes on a line I don’t even have a dryer good idea because dryers are like most energy wasters a luxury. As for the oil I use If I use what is recomended my vehicle burns oil and always has and I have not seen any difference in mpg and I monitor every tank full and the moment I see a change I find out why. Simple due diligence will save anyone far more fuel and money than using a certain weight of oil.Change oil regularly use an oil designed for extended change intervals keep your tires properly inflated tune up your car every fall and most importantly slow down!!!! Just slowing down has done this for me I leave 5 minutes ealier for work drive about 2to5 mph slower than I used to and my mileage has increased from 24 mpg to 28.5 mpg. don’ set there and do the same thing over and over take action stick it to the big oil companies and keep some of your money just doing what I have done saves me at least $100.00 per month. Also it has done a lot to reduce pollution which should be our main goal so help me and yourself out do something, anything just do it and do it now!!!

  8. Cathy - August 3, 2006

    I dried a couple of loads on the clothes line and I was surprised at how quickly it dried- about the same time as in the dryer. Of course it was about 102 outside that day. The only difference I noticed was that the clothes seemed stiffer, not as soft as in a dryer. Any suggestions? I also, have been driving slower recently- I don’t monitor my mpg, but it sure has helped me to be calmer!
    Thanks for all the great suggestions you provide!

  9. Matt Robinson - August 10, 2006

    19.6mpg? How about changing your car for something more efficient?
    So, my car (Big family Estate, Diesel – hybrid would also work)
    Mpg 38.9 (ave – upto 55mpg on longer trips)
    Lbs CO2 saved = 5943
    Cash saved $911 (or, as here iwith the uk’s high prices, £1510 / $2984..)

  10. Phil in Lakewood - August 25, 2006

    There are a lot of benefits to slower driving besides getting better gas mileage: (1) The shorter breaking distance at slower speeds increases your safety zone around the car. This permits slower reaction time, allowing you to think before you act. (2) Lower speeds are easier on your car (my last one, a 1989 Mazda, was running fine when I sold it at 187,000 miles). (3) You reduce stress on your passengers as well as yourself.