Diluted gas: More common than you think

By Naomi Muller

Mechanics are reporting that they’re seeing an uptick in cases of water and sediment in vehicles’ gas tanks. Affected cars run normally for a while and later may require towing to be serviced. In such cases, repairs can add up as the tank needs to be drained and replenished if a fuel sample shows evidence of dilution. This is not typically due to tampering but from the gasoline sitting around for extended periods gathering sentiment and other external factors that allow water to seep into stations’ storage tanks over time.

Encouraging the growth of full service stations with attendants who are more likely to catch leaks is one solution but these are rare outside of Oregon and New Jersey where attendants are a requirement for business. So how can consumers spot possible dilution and protect themselves from purchasing bad gas in the first place?

Spot diluted gas while driving
The most common signs of water in the tank are hesitation in driving and acceleration, stumbling, and jerking. Notice if your vehicle suddenly has these issues while you’re behind the wheel. It can be hard to diagnose and requires testing of the fuel itself since cars don’t have alerts for water in the tank.

How to avoid fueling with bad gas
Some gas stations are more likely to have this issue than others. Avoid unbranded stations–they’re less likely to consistently pass inspections and change their fuel filters. If you have to refuel at a lesser-known station–avoid filling your tank while there is a tanker truck refilling their supply. This can stir up any sediment that can then slip into your tank.

What to do if you suspect you’re driving with diluted gasoline in your tank
Report bad gas to the station and call the number on the sticker at the pumps. You’ll also want to immediately address the affected gasoline in your tank at a reputable mechanic who can drain and refill it with fresh fuel.

6 ways to improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency (maybe)

By Naomi Muller

When gas prices are up, any action you take to reduce your bill at the pump counts. We can’t all take public transportation all the time. There isn’t one big routine adjustment you can opt for that will make a noticeable difference but there are a few small things you can do that will add up and hopefully save you some money.

Here are a few tips for drivers who already have a vehicle and want to work with what they have to save a little at the pump.

  1. Stay on top of routine maintenance. Try to stay up to date on regularly scheduled oil changes and have a mechanic check on your vehicle’s engine annually. Poor alignment, underinflated tires, dirty air filters, and clogged fuel injectors are some of the issues that arise under the hood without drivers noticing. These types of mechanical problems affect the longevity of your car and it’s fuel efficiency. Prioritize getting your vehicle serviced regularly. It is one of the main keys to avoiding wasting gasoline regardless of other changes you make in your driving habits and routine.
  2. Limit idling as much as possible. If you’re sitting in one place for longer than 10 seconds, you’re probably wasting fuel. Turn your engine off if you’re going to be stationary for more than a minute. Restarting modern cars isn’t hard on the engine or the battery, idling leads to worse wear and tear. Now you know!
  3. Drive conservatively. Slow it down if you’re a habitual speeder. Keep steady and within the speed limit. Make use of cruise control if you have it. Accelerate gently and coast to decelerate. If you’re having to hit the brakes often, remember you’re using gas to do so.

  4. Clear out clutter to lighten your load. Maybe you don’t have a full trunk from the last time you tried taking donations to your local thrift store only to find they were closed. Maybe you don’t have enough old receipts on your floorboard to wrap a gift in a pinch. Maybe you don’t travel with a duffel bag of snacks just in case—if you do, consider cleaning up your interior junk piles. They may be weighing your car down more than you realize. Keep some emergency tools and a first aid kit in your ride but ditch the rest. Let go of heavy old phone books and find a cloud data provider to help you manage contact data and lists.
  5. Anticipate traffic and try to avoid rush hour. This goes back to the idling point. Sitting in one spot or moving at a snail’s space bumper-to-bumper equates to not making the most of the fuel in your tank. Of course, we can’t always avoid busy times on the road—but a slightly longer, less-traveled backroad where you have the ability to coast may be a better choice for stretching your gas further.
  6. Roll up your windows when driving on the highway. Contrary to popular belief, running your car’s air conditioning is more fuel efficient in some cases. At higher speeds, it is better for saving gas to use AC than it is to ride with your windows down to stay cool. This also varies by car design, for boxier vehicles like SUVs this tip likely won’t make a difference, and at slower speeds it doesn’t apply.

One thing some drivers may try that doesn’t seem to significantly help with fuel efficiency is springing for the premium options at the pump when not required for your vehicle. It may make a slight difference but for the price, it’s not a cost-saving method to stretch gas and get more mileage for less.

Seeing red: What color cars really get the most tickets?

By Naomi Muller

You’ve probably heard that drivers of red cars are most often ticketed for speeding and traffic violations. It makes sense why bright red vehicles would be singled out more than other cars on the road. Red is eye-catching and a bold color choice for a personal vehicle. Maybe you can even picture the type of person who might choose to get behind the wheel of a candy-apple-hued sports car running red lights and speeding down a highway. Unconsciously, we may also associate red with anger or frustration which could bring to mind road rage and visions of reckless driving.

This often-repeated car “fact” is actually just a myth that has persisted over the years. It is easy to believe and many people assume it’s true without verifying it by taking a look at the data available from insurance providers.

In reality, red automobiles are the second most pulled-over after white cars, with silver and gray vehicles ranking 3rd and 4th on the list. This is not because white grabs attention or because drivers of white cars are especially reckless—there are simply more of them on the road. 77.1% of all cars currently being driven are on the grayscale spectrum–meaning they’re mostly white, black, and shades of gray in-between. The number one color is white. While the most popular car color fads reported change from year-to-year, grayscale cars may be viewed by consumers as easier to keep clean and more neutral for buyers who seek utility over style and don’t care to follow current trends.

It also must be considered, the average car on the road is around 12 years old according to the industry research firm IHS Markit. So, the trends of the past are still represented heavily on the road today with drivers of older vehicles waiting at the same red lights as new car buyers.

Stereotypes and common media tropes aside, the idea that there is a certain type of person who gravitates toward buying and driving a red car extends beyond a simple decision from what color options are available on the sales lot. Research related to consumer choices in car brands and models offer a wealth of information about the people driving them–much of which may seem unrelated without comparing multiple data sources. The relationship between modern consumers and their buying choices holds valuable information about who they are, how they think, and what they prioritize in other aspects of their lives. For marketing purposes, car preferences may be combined by marketers with other data append products such as contact information or even wealth scores.

According to a survey of American drivers conducted by Strategic Vision in 2020, Subaru drivers were more likely to vote for Joe Biden because they tend to lean Democrat. Pickup truck drivers, on the other hand, were more likely to have voted for Trump because they more often lean Republican. Democrats reported being more interested in car brands with environmentally-friendly options (and more likely to travel via public transportation) while Republicans responded that they preferred to purchase cars based on their personal aesthetics–especially brands marketed to reflect luxury and the power of the driver.

These insights provided from the 46,000 drivers who were asked about their political preferences also suggested Democrats typically hold onto their cars much longer than Republicans who typically buy new cars every three to six years. This is also because, according to the same survey responses, Democrats and progressives skew younger and therefore have less buying power than Republican car buyers who may more easily afford their desired vehicle upgrades.

According to the Pew Research Center, 50% of American households with reported incomes of less than $30,000 annually represent adults who identify as Democrats, 27% who identify as Republicans, and the remaining 23% claiming no political lean in either direction. Forty-seven percent of households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more are Republicans, 44% are Democrats, and 10% report no political preference.

Through comparison of the most current data available related to wealth distribution between Democrats and Republican by household, and examination of the relationship between car-buying trends and drivers’ self-reported political affiliations, other consumer preferences that people may be less inclined to share may be more easily illuminated and understood.