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Get Better Fuel Economy

Four easy ways to save money on gas

Automotive, Fuel

Whether you drive a hybrid or an RV, there are a few universal ways to improve a vehicle’s fuel economy, thereby reducing your fuels costs.

1. Start with basic maintenance.
If you are driving with an activated “check engine” light, you’re wasting gas. Today’s vehicles have computers that monitor engine efficiency. Any notification that your engine isn’t working optimally should be taken seriously.

Always follow your vehicle’s preventive maintenance schedule. Changing spark plugs and filters is important; an engine with worn-out parts could experience a five-percent drop in fuel efficiency. If you’re driving with a faulty oxygen sensor, you may see up to a 25-percent reduction in fuel economy.

Something as simple as low tire pressure can also impact fuel mileage. According to the EPA, you can improve your vehicle’s gas mileage by more than three percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure.

2. Reduce weight.
Don’t use your car as a storage locker. Vehicle manufacturers spend thousands of dollars to eliminate just a few excess pounds. Each season, go through your car and remove unnecessary items. A cargo attachment may seem handy for carrying those extras on the family vacation, but it can reduce fuel economy by up to 20 percent. Just pack the essentials.

3. Adjust how you drive.
You’ll experience the biggest savings by driving conscientiously.

  • The adage of driving as though there is a raw egg between your foot and the gas and brake pedals holds true. Avoid “jack-rabbit” starts and hard braking, and you can improve overall fuel economy.
  • Maintain the speed limit, as speeding doesn’t just increase the chance of getting a ticket, but it also wastes fuel. Cars tend to be most fuel-efficient on the highway between 55 and 65 miles per hour.
  • When your car is stopped and idling, it’s getting zero miles per gallon. Skip the long line at the drive-through; instead, park and go inside. When waiting to pick other passengers up, consider shutting the car off, instead of idling, to save fuel. Lengthy engine warm-ups are not necessary; a minute or two is sufficient, even in cold weather.

4. Plan your trips.
Think of your car as if it’s on a bus route, going logically from one stop to the next without backtracking. Using your car as though it were a taxicab — making many short trips that overlap — is far less efficient. If you have more than one vehicle in your household, use the one that gets the best fuel economy for running errands or making other quick trips.

JOHN PAUL, writes car reviews and how-to articles for AAA Southern New England’s Horizons magazine.