DEL STONE JR.: My car liked a taste of the real thing

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DEL STONE JR. @DelSnwfdn

Suddenly my car has begun getting better gas mileage, and while I’m not sure, I think it may be due to an experiment I tried a few weeks ago.

I made the mistake of looking at the EPA figures for my car. In the city it’s a dismal 19 mpg, which comes as a shock because for years I thought it was 23 mpg. That 23 is the combined city/highway rating for the model with automatic transmission. Mine is a stick, which has a combined rating of 22 mpg (I thought stick shifts got better mileage than automatics. Not anymore).

If I had known the car got only 19 mpg around town I might not have bought it. I gave up my beautiful, roomy and comfortable Pathfinder, which got 16 mpg, to save money on gas. A stinking 3 mpg is not going to put much money in my bank account.

When I first bought the car it reliably produced 23 mpg around town and I was happy. Anybody who has ever been in a car behind me knows I drive like Grandpa Jones. I don’t believe in bolting from a green light in a cloud of fire, smoke and squealing tires. Nor do I think slamming on the brakes at a red light makes any sense. Yes, I’m the person you whip around in a frustrated rage and give the finger to as you roar off down the road, choking me with your exhaust. But I do get better gas mileage than you.

Lately, however, the mileage dropped into the 20-21 mpg range. My driving hadn’t changed, and I do occasionally run a bottle of STP through the gas. What could it be?

I decided it was ethanol.

Ethanol is the boogeyman of every lawnmower, boat, jet ski and gasoline-powered yard appliance owner. The alcohol eats gaskets and hoses, and doesn’t burn as efficiently as gasoline. Not only that but it’s made from corn, and there’s something sinfully wrong with making fuel from what could be food for people and livestock, especially considering the number of people in the world who are starving.

I guess I owe then Florida representative Matt Gaetz a debt of gratitude for sponsoring legislation that allows gas stations to sell ethanol-free fuel. More of them are beginning to appear in our area.

Gatlin’s on Beal Parkway has, for many years, sold ethanol-free gasoline, but now there’s a station at the corner of U.S. 98 and Memorial Parkway that sells it too. I’ve also heard of a station somewhere on Lewis Turner where you can buy it.

Just for kicks, I decided to run a tank through the car to see if it made any difference. At 60 cents a gallon more, I wouldn’t be buying too many tanks of that gas.

Maybe it’s my imagination, but the car did seem to run better. No more stumbling during acceleration and the idle felt smoother. But when I checked the mileage I was shocked.

My mechanically inclined friends told me I wouldn’t notice much of a difference, but the car got 25 mpg around town. Not only that, but even when I fill the tank with ethanol gas it still gets better mileage.

So these days I stop by a station that sells ethanol-free gas and add a few gallons to my tank. It’s more expensive, yes. But the car seems happier, and I’m not complaining about an extra 4 our 5 miles to the gallon.

Coincidence? I think not. 

Contact online editor Del Stone Jr. at (850) 315-4433 or Follow him on twitter at @delsnwfdn, and friend him on Facebook at dels nwfdn.

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