Getting Relief at the Gas Pump

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of the summer, when we know a lot of people take driving trips, and we know the odds are great we will see high gas prices. As I write this, the national average is $3.56 per gallon for unleaded.

Our friends in Los Angeles are paying as much as $5.19 per gallon and on average $4.04. If you are lucky enough to be in Honolulu, the average gallon of gas is $4.31. So what can you do to keep your hard earned money in your pocket? Here are some helpful hints and some old-school myths you should ignore.

Many think that manual transmission cars are more fuel-efficient. Not true anymore. When it was true, most manual transmissions were 5 or 6-speeds, and automatics were 4-speed. Today, almost all automatic transmissions are 6-speed, and I’ve reviewed cars with up to 9-speed automatics.
Many people also think the smaller the car, the better the mileage. Also not true. There are many much larger, non-hybrid cars more fuel-efficient than the Smart car. Advanced technology and aerodynamics can make a huge difference in fuel economy.

Excessive idling is a waste of fuel. I am not talking about in traffic, but at drive-through windows etc. A car that is idling uses as much as a half gallon of gas per hour. Some things you can do to help with your fuel economy is keep a log of fuel purchases, with the date and mileage, and figure your fuel economy longhand. First, it will verify if your car’s fuel calculator is accurate, and if you are aware of your mileage, you’ll drive more gingerly and you’ll be able to spot when it’s time for a tune-up.

Keep your tires properly inflated, and don’t think you can tell by looking. Invest in a gauge and check them once a week. Under-inflated tires are also a safety issue, especially in hot weather states. Low tires create drag and cause you to use more fuel.

Use your cruise control when you can, constant speeds help with fuel economy, and it keeps your speed from gradually creeping up. This saves fuel and a roadside visit from your friendly law enforcement personnel.

Speaking of speed, here’s a staggering statistic. According to the EPA, for every 5 miles-per-hour over 50, it is the equivalent of gas costing you 24 cents per gallon more. At 75 miles-per-hour versus 50, the cost per gallon out of your pocket goes up $1.20 per gallon. Now, common sense has to come into play here too, you don’t want to get yourself run over.

Try taking off from a dead stop as slowly as is safe. Quick takeoffs are a killer of fuel economy. Although to a lesser extinct, fast stops cost you also. Are you driving around with things you don’t need? If so, empty your vehicle out. Automakers are often not even putting spare tires in cars to cut down on weight.

New air filters and regular oil changes are a good investment to keep your vehicle running at peak efficiency.

Finally, unless you have a hi-performance engine, it will run just fine on regular, even if the manufacturer recommends or requires premium fuel. The general rule of thumb is to try a couple of tanks of regular gas, if you don’t get any pinging, you will do just fine. It may cut your fuel economy slightly, but you will be money way ahead.

Know you have a lot of power when it comes to controlling your cost of fuel. Following these tips will make a difference in how much your monthly gas bill is.

-Jerry Reynolds, The Car Pro

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