7 Tips to Increase Fuel Economy

Looking for ways to stretch your gas a little further? Here are top maintenance tips that have the biggest impact on fuel economy.

1. Heed Warning Signs - Research shows that at least 10% of motorists have a "check engine" light on right now and half have ignored the light for over three months. Dashboard warning lights alert drivers to problems that affect their car's emissions output, reduce fuel economy, and ultimately cause mechanical damage. While it may seem like your vehicle is driving just fine, it's often guzzling extra gasoline.

2. An ounce of prevention - Many drivers admit to stretching their dollars by extending time between schedule maintenance appointments. In this case a penny saved may result in many hundreds of dollars spent in extra fuel costs and repairs. Air filters are a good example of how an ounce of prevention can save you money. You can inspect the filter yourself, shake out the dirt or vacuum it and re-use it, or opt to spend the $25 or so for a new one.

3. Lose weight - Are you driving around with extra "junk in your trunk" or truck bed? By removing an extra 100 pounds of clutter from your vehicle, you can improve your gas mileage by several percentage points. A bucket of baseballs weighs about 25 lbs, snow chains weigh at least 10 lbs, and a set of golf clubs can weigh anywhere from 20 to 50 lbs.

4. Make Friends - Whether your commute is 15 miles or 50 miles, carpooling saves on vehicle wear and tear, time and money. It's also a great way to meet co-workers, neighbors and friends. At today's gas prices, most drivers are spending over $40 per week filling their tank. Split these costs and you can put an extra $1,000 in your wallet each year..

5. Avoid Idling - Attention carpool moms, dads and older siblings. Idling for over 10 seconds uses more gas and causes more pollution than restarting your engine. While it's not recommended to turn off your vehicle at a stoplight or while moving through a pickup line at the local fast food drive-through or school, it is a good idea to pull into an approved parking spot and turn off the engine whenever you expect your wait to be more than a couple minutes.

6. Keep Tires Maintained - Ensuring proper tire maintenance, tread and inflation can increase gas mileage by about 10%. Changes in season or major temperature swings are a good time to double check your tire pressure, even if you have a tire pressure monitoring system on your vehicle. It's best to set them first thing in the morning to the high end of the manufacturer's specifications (usually found on the inside of the driver's door).

7. Be Green - If budget and lifestyle allow, it's certainly worth considering a hybrid or electric car as fuel prices rise. But if that's not for you, you can still drive green by planning your trips efficiently, limiting peak-hour driving and making sure to get your annual or bi-annual emissions test.

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