Trying to save on gas? 3 things that will make your tank go farther

News-DemocratJuly 5, 2014 

With gas prices creeping up this summer, we looked for some sneaky ways to decrease the number of visits to the pump. The U.S. Department of Energy still uses a study from 2001 as its basis for fuel economy recommendations. The study, “Owner Related Fuel Economy Improvements,” examined and tested four things drivers could do to reduce fuel costs, including driver modifications and routine maintenance.

ROUTINE MAINTEANCE

“Low air pressure is the biggest destroyer of fuel economy,” said Mark Meckfessel of the Meckfessel Tire Company in Smithton. Meckfessel says his stores inflate the tires according to the vehicle’s recommendations, not the numbers on the tires.

“The tire could go on a dozen different vehicles,” he said. “A light truck could be 30 to 40 pounds, in a car there could be 10 to 15 pounds of difference.”

Meckfessel also recommends rotating tires every other oil change to keep wear even and avoid drag. "The oil change recommendations have gotten longer and the tire rotation intervals have gotten shorter,” he said.

A tire rotation is $25 at Meckfessel shops, and alignment starts at $80.

SPEED DEMON

Like to accelerate hard and hit the brakes harder? You’re burning extra fuel — possibly a lot of it. According to a 2001 study commissioned by the Department of Energy, very aggressive drivers could save $1.32 a gallon if their wasteful driving habits were changed. Estimated savings are based on $3.72 a gallon from a calculator at www.fueleconomy.gov  . Slower acceleration and gentle braking lower gas mileage by about 5 percent around town, and as much as 33 percent on the highway.

Slowing down on the highway will save you big money, according to the Department of Energy study.

According to www.fueleconomy.com  , where you can plug in the make, model and year of your vehicle along with your habitual driving speed to find out what you’re burning. A 2011 Honda Accord uses $3.72 a gallon at 50 mph. At 60 mph, you’re effectively burning $4.25 a gallon. In a real hurry? At 80 mph, your car’s efficiency is like paying nearly $6 a gallon for gas.

A 2011 Ford does slightly better at the higheest speed, burning a penny less at 60 mph and paying $5.87 at 80 mph.

Of course driving 80 mph on the interstate could also net you a ticket starting at $120; in a construction zone that starts at $275, according to Trooper Calvin Dye Jr. of the Illinois State Police.

PACK LIGHT

An extra 100 pounds reduces your miles per gallon by up to 2 percent.

The equivalent gasoline savings there is 4 to 7 cents a gallon, according to fuelecono  my.gov.

A laundry hamper may hold between about 10 and 25 pounds, the jogging stroller is about 30 to 40 pounds.

All contribute to the vehicle’s weight and nip away at your fuel economy. When it comes to the trunk and inside of the vehicle, run it on empty.

A large roof-top box can reduce your fuel economy from both the weight and drag. If you must have extra cargo, fuelconomy.gov   suggests a rear-mount box, which reduces fuel economy by 1 percent to 5 percent.

Contact reporter Mary Cooley at mcooley@bnd.com  , call 618-239-2535 or follow her on twitter at @MaryCooleyBND.

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