Getting More Miles from a Tank of Gas

With gas prices becoming increasingly volatile and concerns about global warming mounting, conserving gas has become a national priority. While trading in your car or truck for a fuel-efficient sub-compact or hybrid may not be an immediate option, there are strategies you can use to minimize trips to the gas station while continuing to drive your current vehicle.

Tests conducted by Ford Motor Company have demonstrated that the combination of inefficient driver habits and vehicle maintenance can result in 38% loss of potential fuel economy. By taking some the following steps, you may find your car is covering longer distances on each gallon of gas:

Monitor tire pressure. Under-inflated tires create rolling resistance and lower fuel efficiency. By keeping tires inflated at the highest recommended pressure level, you can improve your carís gas mileage by around 3.3%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Proper inflation also lessens wear on tires and reduces the risk of accidents due to tire failure or blowouts.

Get regular tune-ups. Because malfunctions cause the engine to work harder, cars that arenít regularly maintained tend to burn more gas. Problems such as clogged air and fuel filters, faulty oxygen censors, or worn and dirty spark plugs can lead to a dramatic drop in fuel efficiency. Taking a car for a tune-up at least every 30,000 miles can save on gas and protect the engine from damage.

Monitor brakes and wheel alignment. Improper wheel alignment and the drag of poorly adjusted brakes can lower gas mileage. A simple inspection can reveal whether an adjustment or realignment is needed.

Park in the shade. Because gas evaporates in the heat, parking your car in a cooler spot during the summer can conserve fuel.

Do not allow your car to idle for more than a minute. Turn off your car if you plan to stop for more than a minute, as idling for longer periods uses more fuel than shutting down and restarting the engine. Also, avoid warming up a car, as it is unnecessary with todayís engines.

Eliminate excess weight. Take the junk out of your trunk. Each additional 100 pounds of weight a vehicle carries can cut gas mileage by up to 2%.

Slow down. Fuel efficiency falls sharply in most cars when they are driven at speeds above 60 mph. In fact, the DOE estimates that you may pay an extra 20 cents per gallon for every 5 mph you drive over 60 mph.

Curb aggressive driving habits. Acceleration, rather than sustained cruising, accounts for nearly half the fuel burned in city driving. Accelerating smoothly from a standstill consumes much less gas than a sudden start. Use of cruise control on the highway can also improve mileage.

Find ways to drive less. To avoid long waits in traffic, telecommute for at least part of the week or schedule your commute for off-peak hours. Look for opportunities to carpool with neighbors and co-workers, or check out ride share programs in your community. Take advantage of public transit if it is available in your area. Avoid making frequent trips to the mall by taking care of some of your shopping online. You may also want to try walking or cycling to nearby destinations.

Combine trips. Making several trips from a cold start uses more gas than making a longer trip during which the engine remains warm. By planning your route in advance and finding ways to combine errands, you may also be able to reduce the amount of time you spend driving.

Monitor your fuel economy. You can keep track of your carís gas mileage by maintaining a log of the odometer reading and the number of gallons pumped each time you fill up. In addition to alerting you to possible engine trouble, a fuel economy log will also make you more aware of your gas consumption habits.


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