Little changes can mean gas savings down the road

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Lafayette Online) — Summer driving season has started, and gas prices continue to climb faster than the temperature.

By properly maintaining vehicles and changing wasteful driving habits, Hoosier motorists can take some of the heat off their fuel expenses, said a Purdue University Extension family resource management specialist.

“There isn’t a lot you can do about the price at the pump, but there are many things you can do to stretch the dollars you’re spending to put gas in your car,” said Elizabeth Kiss. “The savings can be rather substantial.”

Vehicle maintenance is important, Kiss said. A car in tip-top running shape can increase gas mileage by 17 percent or more.

“Keeping tires inflated, rotated and aligned can extend gas mileage by up to 3 percent, while a properly tuned engine can increase fuel efficiency by about another 4 percent,” she said. “A dirty air filter can cut fuel efficiency by 10 percent, so you’ll want to check it regularly and replace it when necessary.”

Changing the oil according to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations can add to fuel economy, Kiss said.

“How we drive also affects the amount of gas we use,” Kiss said.

“We’ve all heard it before, but it makes sense to combine trips. If you have errands to run, don’t do a few one day and then some others the next day. Plan one trip where you can get them all done.”

Allowing a vehicle to idle burns gas unnecessarily, Kiss said.

“If you’re stopped for more than 30 seconds it makes sense to turn the car off,” she said. “Idling uses more gas than restarting an engine.

“For example, you might turn the car off if you’re sitting at a drive-up automatic teller machine or waiting at a railroad crossing.”

Avoiding “jackrabbit” starts and stops also increases gas mileage when driving in the city, Kiss said.

For highway trips and vacation driving, traveling lighter saves fuel.

“The Federal Trade Commission says that carrying an extra hundred pounds of weight in the trunk can cut fuel economy by up to 2 percent,” Kiss said. “You also can lose fuel mileage if you strap bags and other items to roof racks because of the wind resistance that is created.”

Kiss offers other fuel-saving highway driving tips:

  • Don’t roll the windows down. “You can consume 10 percent less fuel if you leave the windows up and turn on the air conditioner. Like roof racks, traveling with the windows down increases drag. Now for in-town driving, rolling the windows down does not produce a drag problem.”
  • Use cruise control. “You’re less likely to increase your speed, which uses more gas.”
  • Obey the posted speed limits. Gas mileage drops at speeds above 60 mph.

Driving fewer miles can pay off in more ways than just fuel costs, Kiss said. “You might see your auto insurance rates drop and pay less to park,” she said.

For additional fuel saving ideas, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s “Saving Money at the Gas Pump: A Bumper-to-Bumper Guide,” at For information on general family resource management, visit the Purdue Extension Consumer and Family Sciences Web site at

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