Published: Thursday, May 17, 2007
Tips can ease pain in the wallet, at the pumps
Anticipating a wait? Turn off the engine.
By WILL HANLON
Drivers may not be able to control high gas prices this season, but they can control the amount of gas used.
When not driving is not an option, keeping a car properly maintained and driving efficiently can save some money on gas over the summer.
Sean Craig, manager of Midas Auto Service Experts on Market Street in Boardman, stressed how a proper tuneup will help a car get its best gas mileage. "Air filters, tire pressure, and tuneups are the main things," he said.
Drivers should check and replace air filters regularly, keep all four tires fully inflated, and take proper care of the engine if they want the most gas mileage out of their cars, Craig added.
Craig noted that high gas prices have had a negative impact on business recently, leaving his garage nearly empty as drivers are spending more money than usual on gas. Drivers forget about the proper maintenance of their vehicles, which almost defeats the purpose of worrying about gas mileage, he said.
The overall keys to the best gas mileage seem simple: "Basically," Craig said, "it's proper maintenance and driving your car without abusing it."
Bevi Powell, an AAA spokeswoman in Trumbull County, also stressed proper maintenance, but suggested some on-the-road tips that can help drivers increase gas mileage while they drive.
"Exceeding the speed limit and quick pull-outs at stop signs are the big things," Powell said.
While speed limits are set for safety, they can play another role if drivers choose to follow them. According to a Federal Trade Commission consumer alert, "Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph." The "2007 Fuel Economy Guide" reports that each 5 mph over 60 mph can reduce fuel economy by 10 percent.
Aggressive driving with "jackrabbit" accelerations and rapid braking saves less time than one would think, and really isn't worth the amount of gas being used.
Avoiding excessive idling is another way to help fuel efficiency, Powell said. While driving sensibly will get the most miles per gallon, idling gets a whopping zero mpg.
Idling "wastes fuel, costs you money and pollutes the air," the FTC noted. "Turn off the engine if you anticipate a wait."
Using cruise control and overdrive gears when appropriate is another step to getting the best fuel economy. Cruise control helps maintain a constant speed, and using overdrive gearing will make a car's engine speed go down, according to www.fueleconomy.gov.
Driving with a foot on the brake pedal during a trip is a habit some drivers need to stop if they plan on watching gas mileage, as this practice also decreases fuel efficiency, Powell explained.
Using the air conditioner is another factor for fuel. Using a car's vent will help drivers stay cool on the highways, or they can roll down the windows.
Things on top of the car will affect fuel efficiency as well. Ski racks, for example, increase aerodynamic drag, therefore decreasing fuel efficiency. If hitting the slopes isn't on the agenda this summer, take off the ski rack.
What's in the trunk of a car is also a factor, as more weight makes the engine work harder. Even things such as a set of golf clubs in the trunk would affect efficiency, Powell said.
The route motorists drive could also affect fuel efficiency. Powell noted the most direct route is not always the best in terms of gas mileage, as a longer route that lets drivers maintain a steady speed would be more fuel-efficient that a shorter route with traffic and street lights.
"I would encourage drivers to combine errands, as well," she said.
Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm, according to the FTC. Although this tends to be more of a problem in colder months, combining errands now can help get the most of a car's overall fuel efficiency for the year.