BY CHUCK MAI, AAA
Oklahoma’s pump prices are alarmingly close to the state’s all-time high average price for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline, which is $3.955 set on July 16, 2008.
However, there are things motorists can do to stretch their fuel dollars. Some are easy, some won’t cost you a cent and all of them will make a difference. You’ll save money, you’ll use less fuel and you’ll help drive down gasoline prices.
Here are AAA Oklahoma’s 12 best tips for improving your fuel economy.
1) Gas. Only use premium if your owner’s manual says you should. You may think you’re doing your car a favor by buying premium, but you’re not. For most cars, the recommended gasoline is regular octane. Using a higher octane gas offers no benefit. Also, don’t “top off” when filling your tank. Most of that fuel either remains in the hose or evaporates. One more tip: shop around for the best price. Check with friends, neighbors, co-workers and Web sites (such as in the Fuel News & Tools section of www.AAA.com) for the lowest prices. Most gasoline sold in Oklahoma is of the same quality, whether you buy at a name brand or a “Mom and Pop” station.
2) Tires. Far and away, underinflated tires rank as the most common reason for getting poor fuel economy. Surveys show that one out of every four cars on the road today has at least one extremely low tire (below specs by eight pounds per square inch or more). One in every three pickups, vans and SUVs has the same problem. Gas mileage drops as much as two percent for every single pound of pressure your tires fall below the recommended level. Investing five minutes every two weeks with an air hose and a tire gauge (they’re inexpensive and available at auto parts stores everywhere) will save you a bundle. Inflate tires to the pressure recommended in your owner’s manual or on the sticker on the door jamb or inside the glove compartment. The pressure molded into the sidewall of the tire is a maximum – don’t go by that.
3) Air Filter. Another easy and cheap way to improve your fuel efficiency is to check your air filter. You can do it yourself easily – look in your owner’s manual for information. If it’s dirty, buy a new one and put it in; it’s very easy to do. Replacing a dirty air filter can increase your gas mileage by up to ten percent.
4) Engine. Old, dirty spark plugs can reduce fuel economy by 30 percent. Other bad components under the hood can cause your engine to waste even more fuel.
5) Reduce Your Miles. If you have to drive very far to do your shopping, make sure you purchase everything you might need for several days. Consolidate errands. Cold engines use more fuel than warm engines. Also, patronage shops closer to home and shop online.
6) Drive Efficiently. Stay within posted sped limits; avoid rush hour driving; stop aggressive driving; and avoid unnecessary idling. Quick jackrabbit starts and sudden stops waste fuel and are very hard on your vehicle’s components. On the highway, keep an eye on your speed. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 miles per hour.
7) Credit Card Deals. Pay at the pump using a gas rebate credit card. However, some gas stations now charge more if you use a credit card. Check first.
8) Lighten Your Load. Take unnecessary weight out of trunks, pickup beds and back seats. Every extra 100 pounds can cost you a mile a gallon.
9) Gas Cap. By some estimates, loose, missing or damaged gas caps allow 147 millions of gasoline to vaporize annually across the country.
10) Gas-Saving Gadgets. Be skeptical of claims for devices that will improve your mileage. AAA has yet to find any device or gadget that makes much of a difference. Some will even harm your car’s performance.
11) Your Next Car. Hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles are getting better and better, with more power and greater fuel economy. Consider a CNG-powered vehicle. Compressed natural gas is selling for about half the price of regular gasoline these days.
12) Use mass transit or carpool.