Saving gas by driving like a miser

Gas Crunch

by Barbara Carrow


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Shame on us. This nation of coupon clippers is ignoring an easy way to save a third on a major budget item, which is gasoline. Experts say the way we drive has an enormous impact on gas mileage and can easily turn a somewhat average 22 mpg into a respectable 30. Here are some of their recommendations for saving gas:

Slow Down

Take your time on the highway as well as city streets. Following the 80-mph crowd on the interstate may be tempting. Note, however, that the U.S. Department of Energy <www.fueleconomy.org> says to expect a rapid decrease in mileage at speeds over 60 mph. Use cruise control on the open road to cut down on speed changes and to keep your speedometer from creeping upward.

Around town, driving with a light foot will pay big dividends. One expert suggests driving as if you had a hard-boiled egg under your right foot. Another recommends that you not press your gas pedal down more than an inch unless you have to. Accelerate slowly from green lights. And remember that racing to a red light and letting your car idle while you wait for the light to turn makes no sense. Try a slow and easy approach instead.

Avoid hills if you can. If you can't avoid them, don't try to climb one at record speed or your mileage will take a plunge. Maintaining your speed on hills (even dropping down in speed) is perfectly acceptable.

Coast

See a stop sign ahead? Coast as far as you can, and then brake gently. Traveling down a hill? Again, try coasting. The reasoning is simple. Accelerating uses gas and not accelerating saves gas.

Don't Idle

Staying in one place is murderous for your mpg. For that reason, avoid rush-hour traffic whenever possible. And if you're waiting for more than two minutes for the kids to get out of school, shut off the engine.

The no-idling rule extends to cold-weather warm-ups. You only need to warm up your car when it's below freezing. Even then, 30 seconds (or a minute if the weather's really cold) will do the trick.

It All Adds Up

Experts offer other suggestions that, little by little, can help on saving gas.

  • Remove cargo racks. They add to wind resistance.

  • Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your car. According to the Department of Energy, an extra 100 pounds can reduce your mpg up to two percent. Smaller vehicles are affected more than larger ones due to the ratio of the extra weight to the car's weight.

  • On the highway, opt for air conditioning if you're traveling over 40 mph. At higher speeds, open windows create aerodynamic drag, which is bad for mileage. You'll also avoid the horrendous noise generated by rolled-down windows.

  • Maintain your vehicle properly to burn less fuel. That includes keeping your engine tuned, tires inflated properly and oil changed.

  • Use overdrive gears when appropriate. Your engine speed will go down, which saves gas.

  • Unless your owner's manual tells you to use premium unleaded gas, don't waste your money buying it. There's no need to pay for it if your engine is designed for regular gas.

  • Fill up when it's cool. Pumps dispense gas by volume, but a car's engine uses it by weight. Gas is denser when it's colder. The colder the weather, the more gas you get for the same money.

Try these tips, and you'll be groaning less about the high cost of fuel and saving gas. No coupon required.

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