Idle Through Heavy Traffic

Idle through heavy traffic when you have to crawl along. I don't recommend unnecessary idling, but there is a place for it when you're stuck in stop-and-go traffic and there isn't any other way out of it - except through it.

The relative difficulty or cost of this tip is rated 1 to 10. A rating of 10 suggests that this tip is the most difficult or most costly. Expected savings are also rated 1 to 10. A rating of 10 suggests that this tip will provide substantial savings in fuel, money or both.

Idle through heavy traffic. In a traffic jam, you’ll notice a “slinky” effect, where the cars will travel in waves. There is a portion that speeds up just to reach the part of the “slinky” that isn’t moving.

Some people are in a hurry and accelerate up to the next point where they have to stop. Why not just idle up to the next place where you have to stop? Chances are you’ll find that by the time you get close to the stopped vehicles, the “slinky” has started to move again.

The key to better gas mileage is to stay in the part of the “slinky” that keeps moving. If you idle through heavy traffic, you can do that.

Accelerating and stopping consumes energy to get going and wastes that energy (momentum) by heating up the brake pads to slow down again. If you are only using the fuel necessary to idle, then you are using the most conservative driving technique (short of shutting off the car and waiting for the traffic to clear).

Remember, each time you put on the brake, you are converting fuel used to go forward to heat and wear on the brake linings, so let the others do the “traffic slinky”, while you roll along smoothly and idle through heavy traffic.

One of the ways to improve gas mileage in a traffic jam and avoid the “slinky” effect is to follow behind a large truck. They have anywhere from 10 to 13 gears that they have to keep changing if they play the “slinky” game. They also have a huge load to start and stop.

So, you’ll notice that they crawl along at a fix speed whenever they can to reduce having to start and stop. Follow behind a large truck and you’ll have a good reference point as to how fast you can consistently travel without having to put on the brakes.

If you must travel through a long traffic jam, try to maintain a speed that is constant, even if that means you have to use lower gears on your automatic transmission. Just remember to get back into “drive” when the traffic starts moving again.

Cost or difficulty: 1
Savings: 1

Done with Idle Through Heavy Traffic, back to Save Gas

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