Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

April 13, 2011

How to be a Fuel Miser

Go ahead, be cheap. Stingy. Penny-pinching, even. Any driver can wring more miles from a gallon of gas. All it takes is a few new driving habits.

Deb Acord
CTW Features

Stillwater, Oklahoma — Slow down.

Improving your car’s gas mileage is really that that simple.Taking it easy is the key to saving money at the pump, says Michael Calkins, manager of AAA’s approved auto-repair operation based in Lake Mary, Fla. “Altering your driving habits is the key. Accelerate gently and anticipate traffic flow to minimize stopping and starting.”

For the best gas mileage, combine a more-intuitive approach to driving with the following tips from AAA, the EPA, the FTC and Consumer Reports magazine:

• Leave your aggressive self at home. So-called jackrabbit driving – rapid acceleration and hard braking – can lower a car’s mileage 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent on city streets.

• Don’t be in a hurry. Fuel economy usually starts to decrease rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. According to the EPA, you can increase your mileage by 7 to 23 percent just by slowing down.

• Lighten up. Clean out your car. Every extra 100 pounds can reduce your mileage by up to 2 percent. Have a roof rack? Even a ski rack makes your car less aerodynamic, which in turn, negatively affects its fuel economy. A Consumer Reports test showed that carrying a large Thule Cascade car-top carrier reduced a vehicle’s gas mileage dramatically.

• Watch idling time. A car gets zero mpg when it’s idling. If you choose the drive-thru, turn off your engine while you wait for your order.

• Use your engine wisely. Engaging the cruise control and shifting up into the overdrive gear on a car’s transmission can save gas.

• Take care of your car. Does it need a tune-up? According to the EPA, fixing a car that needs a tune-up or has failed an emissions test can improve gas mileage by up to 4 percent. Fixing a more serious problem (such as a faulty oxygen sensor) can result in improvements as great as 40 percent.

• Get some air. Running with lower air pressure in a car’s tires may provide a cushier ride, but it decreases its gas mileage. Inflate the tires to the pressure the automaker recommends.

• Follow the directions. Use the grade of motor oil recommended by your car’s manufacturer. Using 5W-30 in a car designed for 5W-20 can lower its mileage by 1 to 1.5 percent.

• Plan ahead. Combine several errands into one long multipurpose trip.

• Be a smart commuter. If you can, avoid peak rush hours. Consider telecommuting. Look for carpool and ride-sharing programs and use mass transit if it’s available.

• Don’t overdo it. Fill the tank only with gas at the octane level recommended for your car. Usually, the only benefit of using premium gas (unless it’s specified) is that it lightens your wallet.

What won’t help? Consumer Reports says these gas-saving tips are “myths.”

• Changing the air filter. Many people believe that driving with a dirty air filter reduces a car’s fuel economy. In truth, however, there’s no effect on mileage in today’s cars.

• Filling up in the morning. The theory is that gas is denser when the air is cooler, so you get more for your money. In fact, the temperature of gasoline changes very little throughout the day.

• Swearing off air conditioning. The idea is that the AC puts a load on the engine. In fact, using air conditioning, especially at highway speeds, has almost no effect on a car’s mileage.

© CTW Features