Thursday, January 7, 2010


Gasoline prices are up 29 percent from a year ago, so finding ways to stretch your personal petro dollars could be a welcome treat.

Everyone knows the basics: Avoid jackrabbit starts and sudden stops, drive slower (since every 5 mph over 60 means paying an extra 20 cents a gallon for gas) and keep your tires inflated (the EPA says doing so can reduce fuel use by 3.3 percent).

You can also skip those nutty liquid additives and air-hose attachments claiming to slash gas costs. Last year Consumer Reports tried them and concluded that you should not waste your money on them.

Here are some lesser known ways to boost gas mileage:

1. Many people mistakenly believe it’s harmful to your engine to simply start up and drive away, particularly in winter. But modern engines don’t need much of a warm-up. So start your car and drive off.

2. Not only does tailgating lead to the fuel-wasting cycle of applying brakes and hitting the gas to catch up, it can lead to sudden and unexpected road hazards. The Federal Trade Commission says that anticipating traffic conditions and avoiding tailgating can save 5 to 10 percent on your fuel bills.

3. Those toolboxes and old golf clubs cluttering your cargo space can cost you. According to EcoDriving USA, 100 pounds of extra weight translates to a 2 percent reduction in fuel economy. Lighten that load.

4. Professional drivers on the clock would never be without their electronic, windshield-mounted transponders, because E-Z Passes (and similar autopayment devices, like California's FasTrak and Florida's SunPass) let them zip through toll lanes, saving time and gas.

5. Many of us don't have a clue when the Check Engine light goes on. Often, the light is saying that the car’s emissions system is malfunctioning. If your oxygen sensor has failed, replacing it could improve your fuel economy by as much as 40 percent and end your car’s status as a gross polluter. So take the Check Engine light seriously, even if your car appears to be running fine.

6. A roof rack interferes with your car’s aerodynamics and can cost you 5 percent in fuel economy, so take it off when not in use.

7. Tighten your gas cap. The problem is gasoline evaporation. A loose or missing cap (which can also cause starting problems) can result in up to 30 gallons of evaporation annually. And that’s gas you already paid for.

8. Hybrids such as the Toyota Prius have in-car fuel-use gauges that let drivers see their consumption drop as their behavior evolves, so think about getting a mileage meter/gauge. The manufacturers claim you can increase fuel efficiency by 33%, by being aware of the way you drive.

9. Think about taking an eco-driving workshop. Don’t confuse this type of training with a standard driving school. Many driving schools are headed by former race drivers, so getting you to slow down may not be high on their priority list. These workshops teach you fuel-saving habits that also help you drive more safely.

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