Do you know metric conversions?

Pumping gas
Pumping gas. (Metro Creative Services photo)

With the annual Canada trip just days away, it’s time to return to the classroom for a lesson in conversion.

After all, there’s not a person in Ontario, or any Canadian province for that matter, who cares a bit about gallons, quarts and pints; nor do they care about paper dollars, inches and feet, or the current temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.


As many times in the past as officials here and abroad insisted that life would be better if the US would adopt the metric system of measurement is the exact amount of times that this country has refused to convert.

Yes, we do indeed use the metric system here and there but for the most part we’ve agreed to adopt the “you can’t make me” extended chin attitude.

So let the rest of the world go outside to enjoy the sun when it is 22 degrees, bake a 0.45 kilogram “pound cake” and measure bolts of cloth with a meter stick.

Fuel up

All right class, sit up straight and listen closely. Your boat’s six-gallon gas tank will take 22.8 liters. We know that because one gallon is equal to 3.8 liters and one quart is the same as 0.95 liters. Who cares?

You will if you watch the gas pump spinning like a pin-wheel as it measures liters, not gallons. And yes, gas in Canada is priced by the liter and a liter is usually priced at a dollar or a bit more.


Speaking of cost, this year is an especially great bargain because your US dollar is worth a lot more than a Canadian dollar — at least 25 percent more, possible quite a bit more.

But know this; if you are to hand a US 50 dollar bill to some venders, you may not see any discount for your dollar.

Most places will be fair, or somewhat fair, but think a little about the advantage of exchanging your money at the first bank you find on the north side of the boarder.

Now repeat after me: “I will go to a bank, not a money vender, so that I get the correct exchange rate as determined that day.”


If you drive a vehicle of recent vintage you will probably be able switch your speedometer to metric so your speed is measured in kilometers per hour instead of miles per hour.

Older vehicles sometimes have both printed on the speedometer face. You can also find a free app on your phone which measures speed very accurately.

When the sign reads 100 it means 100 kph, not mph. — that is 62 mph. One US mile is equal to 1.6 kilometers. One kilometer is equal to .62 miles.

An easy conversion, although close but not exact, is to simply multiply kilometers by 0.6, so if the sign reads 300 to your next stop it translates to about 180 miles.


Now comes something a little tougher — the temperature. The metric system measures temperature in Celsius and is quite simple, but converting it to Fahrenheit is not.

You better write this down on a flash card for further memorization.

The test for this exercise comes after waking on the first morning when the radio reports a morning temp of 16 degrees. He or she is actually encouraging you to get up to a nice day.

To convert that to Fahrenheit multiply by 9, divide your answer by 5, and then add 32. The correct answer is 62.8 degrees, a morning temp that will end up being a pleasant 70 degree day.

More conversions

Step on a scale and your plump 250-pound score might be something like a svelte 112.5 kilograms. And your tires will hold about 30 plus psi of air or 200 plus kPa in Canada.

They are both measures of pounds-force per square inch as we know it but in north of the border jargon it is a measure of kilopascals. Nothing to it.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.


  1. Learning conversion is the worst way to learn the metric system. One learns by measuring in modern units and relating to them by establishing references.

    A “pound” cake refers to any type of cake traditionally made with each of four ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. So, you can have 500 g of each ingredient and the cake will have a mass total of 2 kg.

    The symbol for speed in kilometres per hour is km/h. There is no such thing as kph. Only ignorant people use it.

  2. Yes, American ‘s fail to learn Metric SI because they been ‘converting’ for the last forty years, and what has that done for you? Nothing but confusion and a lot of wasted class time in school! And companies that don’t Metricate are the foolish ones that continue to waste their time doing ‘converting’ numbers back and fourth every day are bound to make mistakes. Greenleaf Corp, of Sagertown Pa, forces their employees ‘convert’ everyday meaning to and from, not just to Metric SI, and any hirees must past a ‘convertion’ test to be employed! Instead of just using Metric SI! Simply using Metric SI is the best way, less confusing, less math, less wasting time ‘convertion’!
    The failure of Metrication for the last fourty years in America, all in the name of egotist attitudes…of you can’t force me! And now we stand alone!


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