With gas prices set to rise above $4 a gallon, get some bang for your buck

April 02, 2008 at 9:16 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Gas prices are expected to rise above $4 a gallon this summer, making it more important than ever to increase a vehicle’s gas mileage.
Heather Breaux
Gas prices are expected to rise above $4 a gallon this summer, making it more important than ever to increase a vehicle’s gas mileage.
Though many people now consider the price of gas outrageous, just wait until the summer when consumers could be paying an extra $10 to $20 per fill-up.

That's because prices during the summer rise every year, when people travel more during the three months when their children are off of school. According to the Energy Information Administration, some areas of the country may see gas prices rise above $4 a gallon in just a few short months.

Currently, the average price of regular is $3.22, with the average price of premium sitting at $3.45. In fact, the average price of gasoline, including regular, mid-level and premium, is estimated to rise to $3.50 next month.

Several steps can be taken to make sure drivers get the most bang for their buck. While these tips won't do anything to lower the price at the pump, they do make sure that consumers improve their gas mileage.

Improve gas mileage by effectively maintaining your car
While many Americans are eyeing new vehicles in order to beat the price at the pump, it's still possible to increase the gas mileage of their current vehicle by following a few basic tips.

First of all, consumers need to make sure that their tire pressure is at satisfactory level. Over-inflated or under-inflated tires decrease gas mileage because the car has to work harder to make up for the problem. Keeping tires inflated and aligned can increase gas mileage by up to 3 percent, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Tire-pressure gauges can cost as little as $1 and that is well worth the price.

It's also important to change the vehicles air filter. The filter is located right under the hood and is easy to reach. A clogged air filter greatly reduces the amount of oxygen that engines can use for burning fuel. The lack of oxygen can result in an inefficient fuel mixture and a decrease in engine power, which both lead to lower gas mileage. The FTC says that replacing clogged filters can increase gas mileage by up to 10 percent.

The FTC also says that it's important to keep engines tuned, which increases gas mileage by an average of 4 percent, and to use the manufacturers recommended grade of motor oil when changing oil. Motor oil that says "Energy Conserving" on the performance symbol of the American Petroleum Institute contains friction-reducing additives that can improve fuel economy.

At the pump, it's also a good thing to use the most effective octane level for a car. For most cars, the recommended gasoline is regular octane. In most cases, using a higher-octane gas than the one the manufacturer recommends offers no benefit.

The FTC says that unless an engine is knocking, buying higher-octane gas is a waste of money.

Drive more efficiently
While it's always nice to keep a car maintained, that's something that most people do on a regular basis. The biggest way to improve gas mileage is by the way a person drives.

Drivers should always watch their speed and try to keep it below 60 mph. Though sometimes this is impossible, such as when a person is on the interstate, driving faster than 60 mph can significantly decrease  gas mileage. In fact, www.fueleconomy.gov says that driving over 60 mph can cost an additional $.20 cents per gallon for every five miles that’s traveled at that speed.

Driving aggressively, such as constantly accelerating or breaking rapidly, wastes a ton of gas. That alone can lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. It's also important to avoid unnecessary idling. When a car is idling, the engine is still using gas even though the car isn't moving. While some amount of idling is necessary, such as at red lights and in traffic congestion, the rest of the time a person should try to idle as little as possible. Turn the engine off if the car will be sitting somewhere, such as a drive-thru, for a while.
And something that most drivers don't think about is reducing excess weight. The heavier a car is, and the more stuff that is in it, the more work the engine has to do. An extra 100 pounds just in the trunk can reduce a typical car's fuel economy by up to 2 percent. Also, avoid packing items on top of the car, which creates wind resistance and can decrease fuel economy by 5 percent, according to the FTC.

Changes to your car
Some car companies, such as Honda, have installed a system in their vehicles that lets a user turn off some cylinders in the engine when they are driving on the interstate.
The system, called cylinder deactivation, is used to reduce the fuel consumption and emissions of an engine during highway driving. In fact, fuel consumption can be improved by around 20 percent during those conditions.

Honda Motor Co., General Motors Corp., and Chrysler LLC are bringing the system to their V8 and V6 engines. Honda has been using a version of the cylinder deactivation system since 2005, beginning with its Odyssey minivan.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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