With Gas Prices on the Rise, Smart Driving Means $avings

Release Date: Thursday, February 23, 2012

An unseasonable spike in gasoline prices is putting a premium on fuel-efficiency for cost-conscious drivers, says the Alliance to Save Energy. According to AAA, regular unleaded gas has hit $3.61 a gallon nationally, a jump of 23 cents since a month ago and 42 cents in the last year.

“We cannot control the many factors that cause oil and gasoline prices to fluctuate,” said Alliance President Kateri Callahan, “but we can minimize our own fuel use with proper vehicle maintenance and smart driving habits.”

The Alliance has calculated that the average U.S. household will spend about $3,325 to power its vehicles this year, but simple fuel efficiency measures can cut those costs significantly. The Alliance also offers one-minute video tips produced in partnership with energyNOW! to help consumers save when they are on the road.

Tips for Vehicle Maintenance

  • Tune up. Fixing a car that’s out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40%!
  • Keep tires properly inflated to improve mileage by up to 3.3%. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3% for every 1 psi drop in pressure in all four tires. In addition, proper inflation improves tire longevity – and your safety while driving. DOE cautions not to go by themaximum pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall, but to find the proper tire pressure for your own vehicle on a sticker on the driver’s side door jamb or in the glove box, as well as in your owner’s manual.
  • Use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil or risk lowering your gas mileage by 1-2%. For example, says DOE, using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can depress mileage by 1-2%; and using 5W-30 in an engine designed for 5W-20 can lower mileage by 1-1.5%. DOE also advises looking for the phrase “Energy Conserving” on the American Petroleum Institute performance symbol to ensure that the oil contains friction-reducing additives.
  • Get the junk out of the trunk. Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle. An extra 100 pounds your vehicle’s trunk could reduce your mileage by up to 2%.
  • Also avoid a loaded roof rack, which can decrease your fuel economy by 5%.

Tips for Smart Driving

  • Avoid aggressive driving. Speeding, rapid acceleration and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds and by 5% around town.
  • Avoid speeding. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour. DOE says each five mph over 60 is like paying an additional 29 cents per gallon for gas.
  • Avoid idling.  Idling gets 0 miles per gallon. Idling can waste a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use, but it only takes a few seconds’ worth of fuel to restart your engine, according to DOE.
  • Use cruise control. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas and money.
  • And don’t forget to engage the overdrive gear.  With overdrive gearing, your car’s engine speed goes down, saving gas and reducing engine wear
  • Plan your trips. Combining errands into one trip saves you time and money. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
  • Beat the traffic. When possible, drive during off-peak hours to avoid stop and go or bumper-to-bumper traffic conditions, thereby reducing both gas costs and stress. 

Tips for Smart Commuting

  • If you have a choice of vehicles at home, use the more fuel-efficient one.
  • Consider alternatives to driving solo.  Take advantage of carpools and ride-share programs to cut your weekly fuel costs in half and save wear on your car if you take turns driving with other commuters. Many urban areas allow vehicles with multiple passengers to use High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, which are typically less congested, further improving your fuel economy.
  • Consider using public transit if it is available and convenient for you. The American Public Transit Transportation Association has links to information about public transportation in your state.

Find additional tips and resources on DOE’s fuel economy website.

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