Whether you drive a gas guzzler or a gas sipper, there are things all vehicles owners can do to improve their mileage and cut costs at the pump.
· Stay within the posted speed. Because of wind resistance, gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 55 miles per hour. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, fuel economy goes down by 2 percent for every mile driven at a speeds of more than 55 mph. In other words, you’ll get about half the mileage driving at 70 mph compared to 50 mph, and pay roughly $.20 more per gallon for gas.
· Drive gently. You can improve gas mileage by up to 5 percent by avoiding “jack rabbit” starts and stops. Try to anticipate stops and coast up to them, rather than wasting acceleration right up to a red light. When pulling away from a stop, accelerate slowly rather than putting the pedal to the metal. The same goes for driving uphill. Don’t accelerate because this will burn enormous amounts of gas. Instead, maintain your same speed or drive slower.
· Don’t be a low-gear lover. If driving a manual transmission vehicle, get into the highest gear you can at the lowest possible speed. The slower your engine turns, the less gas you use. Use over-drive gears and cruise control when appropriate.
·; Avoid unnecessary idling. When stuck in traffic due to road construction, bridge building delays or car accidents, turn off the engine if you’re going to be stationary for more than a few minutes. The same goes for waiting in the car while your spouse runs into the store for a few minutes. Leaving the engine running not only wastes fuel (and your money), but also pollutes the air unnecessarily.
· Remove items that cause extra weight. Now that winter is over, it’s time to take off the roof racks from the cars of skiers and dog boxes from trucks of mushers. While you’re at it, get rid of extra junk in the trunk and lose those winter bags of sand from the beds of pickups. Wind drag and weight from this extra gear can reduce mileage per gallon by 5 percent. Only put on kayak and luggage racks when they are going to be used.
· Use the level of octane you need. Your owner’s manual recommends the most effective octane level for your car, which frequently is regular. In most cases, using a higher octane gas than the manufacturer recommends offers no benefit, so unless your engine in knocking, buying premium gas is a waste of money.
· Change oil regularly and use the correct grade. According to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil can significantly improve gas mileage. Using the correct grade reduces friction in the engine and improves fuel economy, while using thicker than recommended oil takes more energy as is pushes through the engine, reducing gas mileage in the process. So whether doing it yourself of having it changed by a mechanic, make sure the oil matches the viscosity recommended in the owner’s manual.
· Keep tires properly inflated and aligned. Under-inflated tires cause greater friction between the rubber and the road, making the engine work harder to move the vehicle. Under-inflated tires have been shown to lower gas mileage by .4 percent for every pound of drop in pressure of all four tires. Don’t be tempted to over-inflate tires to increase fuel efficiency, though, since too much air can alter ride and handling, and thus compromise safety.
· Keep your engine tuned. Tuning the engine on the schedule recommended by your owner’s manual can increase gas mileage by an average of 4 percent. Even something as easy as replacing a dirty air filter can help, but regular service can also help spot other problems that could reduce gas mileage such as low transmission fluid or sticky brake calipers before they start.
Information was obtained from the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Consumer and Business Education. For more information, visit the FTC Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/eande/index.html.
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