This time, it got all the way down to where the one box on the fuel indicator was blinking at me, and only about 345 miles. I figure it was the much colder weather that we had. Oddly enough, the pump kicked off at only 7.89 gallons, less than the eight-point that I got last time, with the fuel indicator at one box not blinky. Final figures, this tank 43.4 mpg; overall 46.2 mpg, a bit down from the 49 I got last tank. Still quite respectable. This time, I filled with regular (87 octane, (R+M)/2 method); we'll see what happens over the next four hundred miles.
At 504 miles (407 since acquisition back in November), I decided that the gas indicator was showing low enough to make it wise to fill the tank. So I did. This fill was for eight-and-a-third gallons, yielding an experienced MPG of 49 in mixed city/highway driving. Pretty good, given that the EPA figures were 45 highway and 48 city.
The book wasn't clear on what I should fill with - it said "Unleaded premium 87 octane (91 Research Octane Number)". Unfortunately, that 87 is not clear as to whether it should be interpreted as Motor Octane Number or US/Canada Pump Octane Number - and when I filled up, I had no idea what "R+M/2" method meant - so I played it safe and filled with Premium, labelled at the pump as 92. When I got home, I did some checking, and assuming that the Wikipedia article on Octane Rating is accurate, the 87 cited in the book is most likely the Pump Octane Number, and I can probably fill with regular. If it turns out to be the Motor Octane Number, I can still use Plus, instead of premium, so I'll be cutting my gas costs even more (as the Camry was tuned for a lean mixture, and was always filled with Premium).
...and it's far better than even I can believe.
I was walking home from the train, and for some reason, a little white car draws my attention. It doesn't look familiar, so I start to wonder why it caught my attention.
This little white car, a four-door sedan that looked smaller than my old Camry, is on the other side of a major intersection, coming toward me, but not yet close enough to see the logo on it. It is being driven like it is either severely underpowered, or the driver is the stereotypical little old lady with blue hair who is looking through the steering wheel to see out the front window.
The car turns down the cross street, in the direction I will be going. When I make the turn, I see it backing into a parking spot.
I get closer, and can see that the logo on the trunk is Toyota's, but I can't read the text that says what model it is.
I get still closer, and see that the model of this tiny four-door sedan is... Huh? Prius?
Understand that until I saw this car, I had never seen a Prius that didn't look like the userpic for this entry (modulo color). Not even in pictures. And yet my PriusDAR seems to have pinged right on this oddity.
Relating this episode to another Prius owner in IRC revealed the information that what I was seeing was the "classic" Prius, with inferior-to-present batteries, from the first year or so that the Prius was available in the US. It does NOT have the HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) that the current Toyota hybrids do. The 'dashboard' was centered, like in the Yaris, not directly in front of the driver, as in most cars (including the present Prius). It also did not appear to have the SmartKey system that I do, and the "gearshift" was a large handle, not a small knob-sized one, but still on the dashboard, not the steering column.
Quite frankly, if this had been my image of a Prius before buying, I'd probably have ended up with the Civic hybrid, or gotten another gas-engine car. But it's still astonishing that I picked this car out.
I knew there were things that would make me fail inspection this year; I didn't know how bad the situation was. It's $1200 bad - the big item is that the exhaust system needs to be redone; apparently, something corroded completely through. I thought that the only issue I'd have was with lights; I think there's a problem with some of the sockets on one side (although it may just be bulbs), and the plastic lens is broken on the other side, either of which is a fail. There were also some concerns with the steering and the brakes, neither of which are fail status, but which bothered me.
There is one big issue that I WILL need to deal with, though not immediately; it's one that should be dealt with sooner rather than later, but I have to really think about it, given the $1600 price tag to correct a leaking head gasket. The car is nearly 20 years old, and I don't use it enough to really warrant replacing it unnecessarily - but there does come a time when repairs/maintenance reach a point of diminishing returns, and this might be it.
The other really expensive issue is the air conditioner, which blows hot right now. To get it to blow cold on demand will require a $1200 refit of the whole thing; I can't just have it patched and recharged, because my freon isn't legal any more. That, I can ignore entirely, given how rarely I use the car; when it's hot, I can just roll the windows down.
Right now, I'm concentrating on the inspection-related issues, the brakes, and the steering. Once I get legal, I'll think about the rest.