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Gas: Guzzling or Sipping?
The price of gas goes up -- way up -- and down, and it can take a big bite out of your budget. Wasting gas also can take a bite out of the environment. So what can you do to make sure you are getting the best mileage possible?
Of course, you can leave your car in the garage and walk or ride your bike. In addition to saving money, you would improve your overall fitness level.
Or you could trade in your car for one that gets better mileage. The U.S. Department of Energy has a Web site that includes information about mileage, emissions, pollution ratings and safety information on new and used cars. If you are in the market for a new car, mileage should definitely be part of the equation these days.
Riding your bike or buying a new car is not always an option, though. The Energy Department offers several suggestions for ways to improve the mileage on whatever car you drive:
- Don't be a leadfoot. Driving too fast can decrease your mileage significantly. In fact, every 5 miles per hour you drive above 60 miles per hour is the equivalent of paying an extra 15 cents or more per gallon of gas. Also, keep your speed constant on the highway, because continually speeding up and slowing down wastes gas. Use cruise control, if you have it.
- Keep it light. Carrying extra weight in your car also hurts your mileage. In general, an extra 100 pounds can cut your miles per gallon by up to 2 percent. The effect is greater on smaller vehicles.
- Don't sit idle. Idling wastes gas, since you get 0 mpg at idle. The waste is greater for larger cars, which have bigger engines.
- Shift into overdrive. If your car has an overdrive gear, using it when appropriate can help save gas, as well as wear and tear on your engine.
- Get a tuneup. Keeping your car tuned up can make it run more efficiently, saving gas. Sometimes the savings can be significant. For example, if you fix a faulty oxygen sensor, you may see as much as a 40 percent improvement in your miles per gallon.
- Replace your air filter regularly. This can improve mileage by up to 10 percent, and it also can extend the life of your engine.
- Check your tires. If your tires are underinflated, your mileage will suffer. In fact, mileage drops about 0.4 percent for every 1 psi your tires are underinflated. Plus, having properly inflated tires keeps you safer as you drive.
- Use the right oil. Using the grade of motor oil recommended by the manufacturer can help improve your mileage by up to 2 percent. Also, look for oil labeled "energy conserving;" it contains friction-reducing additives.
- Combine your errands. Before you set out in the car, think about what other errands you need to run. It might help you to make a list of all your stops, so you can find the most efficient route.
- Carpool to work. Or better yet, take public transportation whenever possible. Also, if you can avoid driving during peak commuting hours, you may be able to spend less time idling in traffic. And that can improve your mood as well as your mileage.