Monday, September 1, 2008

Manage your car’s mileage with AutoFile


By Heather Wardell

With gas prices through the roof, and no relief in sight, many people are trying to drive less, or at least be more efficient about how they use their vehicles. But how do you know if your changes are having any effect? WakefieldSoft's AutoFile lets you see exactly how you're doing.

The software is available for Palm, PC, and Windows Mobile users. For this review, I tested both the Palm and PC versions, and synchronized information between them.

The quick start guide on the Web site suggests adding a vehicle first and then setting the application's preference. As a Canadian, I need my mileage recorded in kilometers, and when I followed the guide's directions, my starting kilometers were converted into miles. I suggest setting the preferences first, even if you are using miles and gallons, just to make sure everything is as you want it.

Once the preferences are set up, it's time to add a vehicle. In Figure A, I am adding my car's information. I found all of the screens in this application to be easy to use and understand, although navigating the menus using my Treo's central navigation pad does not work. Stylus taps do work correctly.


All of my car's information is stored in AutoFile, and, yes, my Tiburon is named Tibby. (click for larger image)

The application is divided into four main sections: Fuel, Service, Trips, and Memo. The section you'll use most often is Fuel, to enter a gas purchase. Figure B shows the data entry screen in both the PC and Palm versions. The only mandatory fields are odometer and quantity purchased, but the rest can be useful information, depending on how much you want and need to track.


The PC and Palm data entry screens store your gas purchases and calculate your mileage and fuel economy. (click for larger image)

Once the odometer's new reading is entered, the software calculates the mileage since the last gas purchase. Fuel economy is determined once you've also entered the amount of gas purchased.

The application did not generate a fuel economy score for me on my first fill up. I had taken the car's odometer reading at the time of the fill up, subtracted how far the trip odometer had said I'd gone since the previous fill up, and used that number for my starting kilometers, so it should have been able to calculate this for me. When I manually entered the trip length, the calculation was done correctly, and it did work properly for subsequent fill ups, but since the odometer reading at the fill up was higher than my starting reading I think it should have been able to determine my economy.