Simple steps can pay off in big gas savings

Friday, May 23, 2008

How would you like to get 35 percent better mileage in the car you already own?

No, we're not selling a cow-magnet or some other questionable device, we're talking about the way you used something you probably already own.

It's your right foot.

As difficult as it is for most of us, just being gentle on the gasoline pedal can save us dollars at the gas pump -- dollars that are flowing faster and faster all the time.

The same goes for the brake pedal. Remember, every time you apply the brakes, you're wasting energy you paid for at a rate of nearly $4 a gallon.

If you're heading out on the highway this Memorial Day weekend, or any other time this summer, a few simple steps can can help you inch closer to that 35 percent savings.

For example, just using your cruise control can help save a significant amount of gasoline, as you avoid "speed creep," or the tendency to drive faster and faster the longer you are on the road. That's also a good way to avoid a speeding ticket.

Don't worry about running the air conditioner; in a modern vehicle, you would probably waste as much gasoline rolling down the windows as you do running the air.

But do have your car tuned up, oil changed and make sure your tires are inflated correctly. According to AAA Michigan, under-inflated tires can cut fuel economy by a half percent per pount of pressure below recommended levels.

If you have a choice of vehicles, drive the one that gets better mileage.

Especially try to be gentle on the gas pedal. Experts recommend taking 20 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph, or if that's too difficult, try not to depress the pedal more than an inch. People will stare at you, and you'll be saving money.

And watch your top speed. For every one mph increase above 55 mph, fuel efficiency generally decreases 2.2 percent.

Other tips from the AAA:

* Don't purchase mid-grade or premium gasoline unless your car's manufacturer recommends it. Doing so won't give you better mileage despite spending an average of 17 cents more per gallon.

* Don't let your vehicle idle more than a minute. Idling consumes half a gallon to one gallon of gas an hour, and wastes more fuel than restarting the engine.

* combine as many errands as possible into one trip.

* When traveling avoid excess wieght and reduce use of car top carriers and trailers. Additional weight and vehicle add-ons hurt aerodynamics and gas mileage.

* Car pool when possible.

* Travel during off-peak times to avoid rush hour.

* Check the engine oil level when buying gas to make sure the engine is lubricated properly.

Don't let the high cost of gasoline keep you from spending your money on more enjoyable things like time with your family or food on the grill for your Memorial Day cookout.

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