QCOSTARICA – Within a few weeks Costa Rica will again set a new record of fuel prices, as the regulating authority analyses the latest request by the State refinery, the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo (Recope).
As prices skyrocket due to a perfect storm of rising post-pandemic demand and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, you can soften the blow to your pocketbook by following some simple and controlling factors.
While you can’t control the price of oil, you don’t need to feel helpless and there’s never been a better time to improve your fuel efficiency.
In Costa Rica, fule prices are regulated and are the same at all gasoline stations, given they all dispense the same fuel, fuel that is imported by Recope and distributed to the retail outlets.
Unlike in some other countries where the use of gas trackers, discounted and free gas cards, paying cash instead of plastic, rewards programs and club memberships, in Costa Rica improved fuel efficiency, to make sure you’re maximizing the number of kilometers your vehicle travels per liter, is all you can really do.
- Check your tires for correct pressure. Tires inflated to the precise pressure, apart from lasting longer, improve fuel efficiency and make driving safer. According to US Department of Energy estimates that properly inflated tires can boost gas mileage by 3%. For optimal tire pressure, check the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Google Maps or Waze. You can boost your gas mileage by recommending routes that avoid hills (almost impossible in Costa Rica) and traffic, resulting ideally in more constant driving speeds
- Suitable engine oil. Using your vehicle manufacturer’s suggested grade of motor oil in your engine saves 1% to 2% in expense. Being lubricants, oils minimize wear on engine parts and channel metal particles generated by combustion to the filter. Look for oil with additives to reduce this friction and consider using synthetic oils for fuel economy in light vehicles. The data on the proper grade of oil appears in the vehicle manual.
- No extra load. The more weight a vehicle carries, the more energy it requires to move. If you often drive with extra cargo that you don’t always use (tools, sports supplies, boxes, etc), leave them behind. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, every 45 kilograms of additional weight in the car increases fuel consumption by 2%. That represents almost ¢1,000 colones per full tank of super gasoline at the current price in Costa Rica.
- Regular maintenance. Improving engine economy can drop fuel consumption from 10% to 20% with routine adjustments such as changing the air filter, the oil filter and cleaning or replacing the fuel filter. An engine tuning (cleaning injectors and changing old spark plugs) can improve these percentages. Although this implies spending, this could be compensated in the current situation of increases in fuels.
- Turn off air conditioning. Air conditioning can increase consumption by 8% to 10%, according to online sites specializing in auto mechanics. However, the same publications say that driving with the windows open also affects performance, as it creates a “drag” effect for the vehicle that forces the engine to work harder. What to do? It depends on the speed. If you’re going over 80 Km/h, opening the window creates more resistance (and expense) than the air conditioning. Below that speed, avoid air conditioning and open the windows.
Also, there are a few choices that help to reduce the cost of gas.
- Consider driving less. But along with driving less, you could also take measures to drive more strategically. For example, you can try to plan ahead and combine errands. Several short trips, each one taken from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
- Consider temporarily using public transportation. If it’s accessible, it may cost less than driving. You could also consider carpooling with friends or family for work, events, or errands; or even using other forms of active transportation like bicycling or walking to save on fuel.
- Slow down. Aside from the cost of the ticket and possible points on your driver’s license, if you get caught speeding, rapid acceleration and braking make you burn gas faster. The faster you drive, the more wind resistance you face, which reduces your fuel economy. Driving over 100 km/h can drain your tank fast.
- Check Your Gas Cap. A bad seal or missing cap can allow gas to evaporate from your tank. Besides costing you money, this pollutes the air. Replace your gas cap if the rubber seal seems worn or damaged.
One last item, which may or may not apply to you at this moment, but can in the near future, make your next vehicle one that has a higher fuel efficiency rating. Consider a hybrid car — or an electric one, if you never want to worry about buying gas again.