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Gasoline is making headlines, and while rising prices are showing no signs of slowing, drivers sure are: According to the Department of Transportation, the total miles driven by Americans fell by 400 million from March to April of 2008, and we drove 1.4 billion less miles this April than last. Keeping your car in the garage, however, isn’t often an option, and that means gassing up is a painful necessity. If you’re feeling powerless at the pump, don’t despair. There’s plenty you can do to squeeze more miles out of every gallon. Here’s our list of tips to save money and reduce your carbon footprint, too:
- Slow down. Gas mileage declines rapidly above 60 mph. Each 5 mph increase above 60 is equal to paying an additional 20-25 cents per gallon.
- Keep your tires properly inflated, and you’ll improve your gas mileage by more than 3%.
- Consult your car’s manual and use its recommended grade of motor oil to improve your gas mileage by 1%–2%. Use brands with “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol; they contain friction-reducing additives that further enhance engine performance.
- Keep your engine properly tuned up to maximize your mileage. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing a faulty oxygen sensor can improve gas mileage up to 40%.
- Check and replace air filters regularly. Replacing a dirty air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10%. Replacing a dirty fuel filter can also have a positive effect.
- When running errands, plan the shortest, most gas-saving itinerary. Avoid retracing your steps and combine multiple errands into a single trip. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer multi-stop trip of the same distance with a warm engine.
- Mellow out. Aggressive driving wastes gas and can lower your mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent in town. Replace jack-rabbit starts from a dead stop with slow and steady acceleration.
- If you have an RPM gauge on your dashboard, watch your RPMs as well as your speedometer as you drive. Find your car’s steady RPM “sweet spot” (generally the RPM level it achieves at cruising speed on a flat straightaway) and keep it there. Stop fighting gravity and let your car naturally slow somewhat going up hills and speed up on the downhill.
- Avoid excessive idling. The average car uses less gas to start up than it does to idle for 30 seconds. So don’t turn off the car unless you expect to be stopped for more than 30 seconds.
- Similarly, skip the drive-thru, where you’ll idle and waste gas. Park and go inside.
- If you have it, use cruise control on the highway to maintain a constant speed and save gas. But don’t use cruise control on hilly secondary roads. The constant ups and downs will cause your engine to work harder to maintain a constant speed.
- If possible, stagger your commuting and/or errand schedule to avoid peak rush hours.
- Avoid carrying items on your vehicle’s roof. A loaded roof rack or carrier increases aerodynamic drag, which can cut mileage by up to 5 percent. Place items inside the trunk instead.
- Travel light. Avoid carrying unnecessary items, especially heavy ones. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk cuts a typical car’s fuel economy 1-2 percent.
- Keep it clean! The reduction in aerodynamic drag created by a clean and waxed auto can boost mileage significantly?according to one cross country experiment by as much as 7%!
- Use your air conditioner on the open road! On today’s aerodynamically designed vehicles, the drag created by open windows generally uses more gas than A/C. Be aware, however, that in stop-and-go conditions the situation is reversed, and A/C will cause your engine to work harder.
- Remember that hybrids work better in stop-and-go traffic than on highways. Hybrids use energy captured from braking to charge their batteries, a savings you won’t realize if you do most of your driving at constant, high speeds.
- Buy a fuel-efficient car. Visit fueleconomy.gov and greenercars.com for information on buying fuel-efficient vehicles.
- Drive less! Take public transportation, carpool, bike, or walk whenever you can. For every gallon of gasoline you save, you’ll prevent about 20 pounds of CO2 from being released.
For more ideas and inspiration, visit GasSavers.org.