( Reprinted with permission from Parade Magazine July 9,2002)
FUEL PRICES ARE UP, AND GOVERNMENT experts are warning of an increased potential for gasoline price volatility. In other words, dont expect any relief at the pump as summer goes on. Buying a fuel efficient car is the smartest move, of course. But there are simple things you do to get better mileage with your current vehicle. Here are 10 ways to save on gas:
1) Keep starts and stops smooth. Nailing the pedal to the floor in jackrabbit starts wastes gas. Abrupt stops also waste fueland cause extra wear and tear.
2) Perform routine car care. Dirty air filters and oil filters, worn spark plugs, neglected oil changes and problems with the emission-control system can reduce fuel economy. Change your oil and check the filters every 3000 miles for peak performance.
3) Maintain tires and keep wheels aligned. Low tire air pressure is dangerousand costly. It creates a drag on the engine, prematurely wears out tires and burns more gas. Misaligned wheels, worn wheel bearings or dragging brakes also can reduce fuel economy by 10%.
4) Buy the right octane. Most cars work fine on regular gas (unless you hear an engine knock). But you should use the octane the carmaker specifies.
5) Use your air conditioner wisely. Running your air conditioner greatly increases gas consumption. Dont use it if fresh air will cool the vehicle sufficiently. On hot days, park in the shade and open the windows for a few minutes when you get in to let hot air escape.
6) Lighten the load. Dont use your trunk to store stuffextra tires, beach chairs, a case of motor oil. Added weight lowers fuel economy. A rooftop luggage rack also creates a drag that will reduce mileage.
7) Stay out of traffic. Stop-and-go traffic takes a drastic toll on fuel usage. If at all possible, plan your trips to avoid periods of peak traffic congestion. Also try to avoid unnecessary idling, which burns more gas than turning off and restarting the engine.
8) Drive smart. First, keep your speed down: Going 65 mph uses about 15% more fuel than going 55mph, and going 70 to 75 mph may consume 25% more. Second, keep a constant speeduse cruise control if you can. Finally, use overdrive if you have it(most vehicles with automatic transmissions do). That way, the car will shift into gas-saving mode at about 50 mph.
9) Plan your errands. Taking frequent short trips will guzzle gas. Instead, try to combine errands with your daily commute: Pick up your dry cleaning on the way home from work, for example.
10) Fill up in the morning. Youll get slightly more fuel for your dollar if you fill up when its cooler outside. (Cooler gasoline is more compact.) Over time, the savings can add up!