Home "Road Ready!" Road Ready Episode 9: Slashing Our Fuel Costs in Half

Road Ready Episode 9: Slashing Our Fuel Costs in Half

by Moses Ludel

Cutting Fuel Expenses Without Sacrificing Our Lifestyle

Cutting your monthly fuel bill may not require getting rid of your fuel hungry vehicles. We found a fuel miserly “daily driver” vehicle at an affordable price. 4x4s continue to complement our lifestyle but now get used for their intended purpose. When your 4×4 is no longer a daily driver, there is plenty of fuel to spare!

Four wheeling and four-wheel drive vehicles have been an important part of our lifestyle. Fifty-seven years ago, I took my first driving exam in a CJ-5 Jeep. We still drive a four-wheel drive Jeep and a 4×4 truck. Many others in our part of the country have 4x4s. They often pass us on the interstate at high rates of speed, burning far more fossil fuel than they can afford.

Our pride and joy 2005 Ram Cummins 3500 4WD pickup, purchased new in October 2004, is still a prominent part of the family. The lifted and accessorized truck is like pushing a billboard down the highway. These aerodynamics, not intended for “basic transportation”, will now be limited to pulling our trailers.

Considering ways to reduce our fuel bill, we found a solution that has cut our gasoline and diesel costs in half—without eliminating 4x4s from our lifestyle. Our unloaded Ram Cummins 3500 4WD pickup gets 19-20 miles per gallon on the highway at posted speed limits. We’ve now repurposed the truck to strictly hauling chores, which include toting the Holiday Rambler RV trailer and our car hauling trailer. The XJ Cherokee 4.0L 4×4 is great for severe winter use, off-pavement filming assignments and multipurpose tire testing. On a dry, flat highway at posted speeds, we are lucky to get 14-15 miles per gallon.

This drawing, courtesy of the Nevada 4-Wheel Drive Association, symbolizes a lifestyle that many of us enjoy. There’s no need to get rid of your Jeep or backcountry vehicle! Consider using that rig for its intended purpose. Find a fuel miserly daily driver.

Instead of racking up mileage on these two vehicles, our commuting and town driving can be much better met with a turbo-diesel powered car. After careful research, we have added a new vehicle to our fleet: a 2003 VW Jetta TDI GL Wagon with the legendary 1.9L ALH engine. The Cherokee has just over 191,000 miles on the odometer and is now retired from “daily driver” status. Factoring its overall city/highway fuel mileage, an average of 12 miles per gallon with a large percentage of commuter or daily driver miles, the 4.0L engine has flowed some 16,000 gallons of fuel through its injectors.

Meet our “new” 2003 VW Jetta TDI GL Wagon, ready to head home on our car hauling trailer. This “time capsule”, an extremely well maintained 19-year-old car, has the legendary 1.9L TDI turbo-diesel engine. With basic fuel injection and a less complex valve train, these engines can run trouble free for hundreds of thousands of miles, delivering 45-50 miles per gallon on the highway when driven properly. The 1.9L ALH engine predates the 2.0L models involved in the VW emissions scandal. ALH turbo-diesels have been a popular conversion engine for lighter weight Jeep, Toyota and other 4x4s.

The Jetta TDI described in Episode 9 is a cost-effective solution to our over the road and basic transportation demands. Delivering a whopping 45-50 mpg on the highway at reasonable cruise speeds, the Jetta is a substitute for our 14-15 miles per gallon XJ Cherokee. (The Cherokee struggles to make 10-12 miles per gallon in-town.) We’re now using 1/3 the amount of fuel for town use and grocery grabbing. Comparing highway mileage again, the Jetta TDI delivers 2-1/4 times better fuel efficiency than the unloaded Ram Cummins pickup.

The XJ Cherokee, with its 6-inch long arm lift, armor, a front winch bumper and oversized tires, still has its place in our “fleet”. Now, however, the Jeep is no longer a daily driver with a 12 mpg overall (combined) fuel mileage average. This vehicle is purpose built and will be used accordingly.

Road Ready is about navigating vehicle ownership. This includes buying the right vehicles, professionalizing your mechanical skills and keeping vehicle overhead as low as possible. Reducing your fuel use doesn’t have to mean selling your favorite four-wheel drive vehicle or giving up a lifestyle. Rather than getting rid of vehicles, Episode 9 offers sensible suggestions around buying an affordable, preowned extra vehicle that will amortize quickly and help your family spend far less on fossil fuel.

In Episodes 9-12 of Road Ready, we’ll explore solutions that lower fuel use without upending your family’s recreational or lifestyle pursuits. Adding a cost-effective, fuel efficient, reliable and safe transportation vehicle, or swapping energy efficient axle gear sets or a diesel engine into your 4×4, may be the solution. Tired of overpriced fuel, but don’t want to give up your 4×4 outdoor lifestyle? Follow Episodes 9 to 12 of Road Ready.

Join Moses Ludel at the forums and the Road Ready Channel at YouTube:

https://youtube.com/c/roadreadywithmosesludel

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