10 tips to help motorists save both fuel and money:
1. Plan your driving time:
A. Encourage your employer to stagger start times to avoid rush-hour traffic, and then volunteer for off-peak work hours to reduce your commute time. Choose the least-congested route for commuting, even if it is less direct. Combine errands into a single trip when possible.
B. Ladies, do all your shopping and errands in one trip if you can. Combine your errands with your husband's as much as possible. Include the errands of any grown children in your home as well. Buy as much as you can in one or two stores that are near each other rather than driving clear across town to pick up a few items that are on sale at another store. Pick stores along one route rather than in remote or distant locations. Car pool with a friend or neighbor to shop, but be sure they are planning to follow the limited distance rule.
2. Easy does it: A "lead foot" driving style wastes fuel and is hard on your car's engine, tires and brakes. Watch traffic ahead and maintain a steady speed, trying to anticipate your stops, letting off the gas and coasting before you need to apply the brake. Avoid "jackrabbit starts" or rapidly accelerating to blend into traffic, when possible. Conversely, avoid sudden stops by leaving plenty of room between you and the car ahead of you.
3. Check your tires: Under-inflated tires can greatly reduce your mileage, decrease the safety and performance of your tires and increase wear. Follow the tire-pressure rating in your owner's manual and check pressures once a week when tires are cold. Make sure your spare is properly inflated, too.
4. Check your air filter: Your car's engine uses far more air than fuel, and a dirty air filter increases fuel consumption. So check your filter monthly (you can blow out dust with compressed air), or have the air filter checked each time you change the oil. Refer to your owner's manual for replacement guidelines.
5. Don't speed: Not only is it illegal and unsafe, but speeding sharply reduces your gas mileage. Use of cruise control on long-distance drives, if available.
6. Avoid extended idling: Don't let your car idle for more than a few minutes to warm the engine or while parked. If you're going to be waiting at curbside more than 5-10 minutes, shut the engine off. (Note: This does not apply in cold weather. You will lengthen the life of your engine by allowing it a good warm up time when starting it in cold weather.)
7. Buy the right fuel: Most cars are designed to use regular unleaded gas (87 octane), which is 10-20 cents per gallon cheaper than premium fuels. Only cars with high-performance engines such as sports cars and some luxury vehicles need premium unleaded gasoline. If you're paying for a higher grade of fuel than is recommended by your owner's manual, you're wasting money. And don't forget to shop pump prices in your neighborhood before you need to fill up. Local prices can vary up to 10 to 15 cents a gallon per grade.
8. Change your engine oil: Having too little or worn out oil in your crankcase makes your engine work harder, leading to premature wear and reduced gas mileage. So check to make sure the oil level is within the "safe" range each time you get gas, and change the oil and filter regularly as recommended by the manufacturer. It's a good idea to check the transmission fluid in an automatic transmission as well.
9. Lighten your load: Be sure not to leave unneeded items in the trunk (or pickup bed) for extended periods, as increased weight means decreased gas mileage. And remember that if you secure items to a roof rack, it will create drag and lead to higher fuel consumption. Put them inside or in the trunk if you can. (Note: Hauling large amounts of paper to be recycled may actually not be worth the gas money you spend to get there. It will also wear out the shocks on your car.)
10. Maintain your vehicle: An out-of-tune vehicle has to work harder, using more fuel and prematurely wearing the engine and other components. So keep your car in top running condition, making sure to follow specific guidelines, especially for things like spark plugs and lubrication, outlined in your owner's manual.
& graphics by Mary Stephens