Saturday, March 13, 2010
Price of Entry into the Geek Club
If you wanna be a geek, you have to keep track of your miles per gallon. I can't bear having data at my fingertips and not using it. So for every tank of gas I get, I keep the receipt and write down how many miles I've driven on that tank (before resetting the odometer back to zero for the next tank). I've been doing this ever since I got my geek card - in high school. But back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, they didn't have these handy electronic thingies at the pumps - I kept a booklet in all of my cars to keep track of the mpg.
Nowadays I calculate the mpg on the receipt, and then generally throw the receipt away... eventually. Above are 3 receipts I just found crumpled up in my purse. The two left ones are from the truck and the right one is the Scion. I used to keep all the historical data ... forever, but now I see that's going a bit too far into geek territory. I might not be able to get back out!
As far as I can tell, I'm not unusual. Every single other engineer I've ever met does this too. One of my engineer friends from South Carolina ended up driving with the tailgate of his pickup truck down, because of the positive effect it had on his mpg. It can actually be useful on occasion.
Here's the story: A few weeks ago, I took the Scion into a local dealership for routine work. It was obvious to me a few minutes after I got the car back that something was wrong. When the car got to 40 miles per hour, it started making a terrible sound that didn't go away at higher speeds, and it wasn't steering the same. Further, when I got gas and calculated the mpg, it was 25. Then the next tank was 26.8 (above).
Now, I've had this car for 5 years. In all of that 5 years, the miles per gallon ranged from 28 to 38, but usually around 30-33. It has never gotten below 28 mpg. It was pretty obvious to me that something was wrong. 50 fewer miles on a tank of gas is a big difference.
So I took the car back to the dealer and told them that. By the way - don't even bother trying that. Especially if you're a woman. They took the car for an hour and told me they couldn't find anything wrong. I wonder if they even looked at it.
I drove it for another week, noticed a slow leak in one of the tires and took it to another shop. Replaced the tire and -- wouldn't you know -- all of the other problems went away too. The mpg is back up to 31, where it's supposed to be. Problem solved.
I'm not proud of having to do this mpg calculation. I've taken a fair share of ribbing about it from my non-engineer friends. But I'm not stopping. I can't! They'll take my geek card away.