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Surviving the Economy: 6 Ways to Improve Your Car’s Gas Mileage

by Student Loan Daddy

You may not be able to do anything about high gas prices, but there are steps you can take to improve your car’s fuel economy. No matter what kind of car you drive, by making a few simple changes, you can get better gas mileage and save money at the pump.

1) Lighten your load.
Get rid of all the junk you’ve been chauffeuring around in the trunk of your car — an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your fuel efficiency by up to 2 percent (or even more for smaller cars).

And although you may not want to admit it, those additional pounds you’re lugging around may also be weighing your car down and eating up gas. We’re pumping 938 million more gallons of gas a year into our cars than our parents were in 1960 because of our growing waistlines, according to a 2006 report from researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

2) Drive in with co-workers.
Carpool to work. Not only does sharing the commute allow you to get to know the people you work with a little better, it’s easier on the environment and on your wallet. If no one in your department lives close to you, try putting up a flyer in the break room. Someone working in another department may live nearby and want to carpool.

You can also check out commuter-friendly websites like RideSearch and eRideShare that connect drivers who want to carpool with other drivers who may be headed in the same direction.

3) Shop around — without driving around.
Stop wasting gas trying to find the best place to save on gas. Instead of cruising around town looking for the pump with the cheapest prices, use websites like GasBuddy and GasPriceWatch to compare gas prices in your area and find the best deal with just a few clicks of your mouse.

4) Lose the rack.
Remove your car’s luggage or ski rack when you’re not using it. Farmers’ Almanac estimates that removing a roof rack, which adds aerodynamic drag, can improve your car’s fuel economy by as much as 5 percent.

5) Come up for air.
Make sure your tires are properly inflated. For every pound of air pressure that your tires are underinflated, you’re reducing your mileage by about 0.4 percent, say the guys on National Public Radio’s Car Talk. In cool weather, a tire will typically lose one to two pounds of air a month, losing even more in warmer weather. Make it a practice to check your tire pressure once a month.

If you’re not sure what the correct tire pressure is for your vehicle, check your owner’s manual, try the manufacturer’s website, or see if you can find it on the door to your glove compartment or on the inside of your driver-side door. If you buy your tires at Discount Tire, their service techs will do an air pressure check for you anytime absolutely free — all you have to do is stop in.

6) Keep up with maintenance.
Get your car serviced regularly. Regular service is one of the best things you can do to maximize your fuel efficiency. A mechanic may be able to spot gas-guzzling problems like a broken thermostat, a faulty oxygen sensor, low transmission fluid, or even something as simple as a dirty air filter. Replacing a clogged air filter (which typically costs about $20) can increase your fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent — at $3.50 a gallon for gas, that’s a savings of about $0.35 a gallon, which means your new filter will have paid for itself after just 60 miles.

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