COLUMN: How to get more miles out of a tank of gas
I can sum up my response to the soaring price of gasoline in just one word: aargh!
While waiting for prices to come down (Do you think they will?), don’t sit around complaining all the while paying through the nose to drive your car.
There are lots of things you can do to increase the number of miles you can squeeze out of each gallon of gas, effectively reducing its cost. Here are a few ways to get better gas mileage:
Empty the trunk: Call it science. The heavier the car, the harder the engine must work to move it around. The harder the engine works, the more fuel it burns. So, unload all that other stuff you’ve been carrying around in the trunk for no good reason. (Please, leave the spare tire and emergency equipment.) It’s a trunk, not a mini storage unit. Unload and you could easily increase your gas mileage by as much as 10%.
Check tire inflation: Get into the habit of checking tire pressure every time you fill up, but when the tires are cold. The recommended PSI (pounds of pressure per square inch) is printed or stamped on a metal tag affixed to the edge of the front driver’s side door jamb, or on an older car, inside the glove box. Underinflated tires cause the engine to work harder than necessary; overinflation causes tires to wear prematurely. (Hint: Do not consult and/or rely on the PSI information on the tire itself. That is the maximum pressure that the tire can handle before bursting! It should never be used.)
Clean the air filter: One of the main causes of low gas mileage is a dirty air filter. If yours cannot be cleaned, replace it and repeat often. Check with a knowledgeable professional at an auto parts store or your mechanic about how often to clean or replace the air filter on your particular model. This is a task you can probably do yourself.
Lighten the lead foot: Drive as if there is a raw egg positioned right under the gas pedal. Your mission is to accelerate so gently that you do not break the egg. Sudden acceleration and lead foot syndrome is the biggest of all fuel thieves.
Bundle your errands: Instead of making many small trips every day of the week, plan ahead. Run all of your errands at the same time in one longer trip rather than making many small trips all week long. Once your car is warmed up, it operates more efficiently, which means with better gas mileage.
Repair, maintain: Transmission torque converter clutch failure results in poor gasoline mileage, as does transmission slipping, a stuck choke plate and leaking injectors. Wow, that really sounds like I know what I’m talking about, doesn’t it?
I’m no auto mechanic, but I’ve learned from so many of my readers who are that it pays to find a good mechanic you can trust.
I’ve also learned my share of expensive lessons over the years that practicing preventive maintenance means cash in your pocket. First, you don’t have to pay for those expensive repairs, but as a bonus, you’ll get much better gas mileage when everything’s working well.
Change the oil religiously every three months, 3,000 miles or as recommended in the owners’ manual. Learn how to do this task yourself to save even more.
Increasing your gas mileage by only 10% is the equivalent of getting one free fill-up every tenth visit to the filling station. Not bad!
The secret is to redirect that savings to some other use before it gets absorbed into your regular spending.
E-mail Mary Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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