Labor Day weekend often is one of the busiest on the nation’s highways. But how do you get the most out of every gallon of gas?
Editors of The Family Handyman magazine compiled these tips on how to significantly save on fuel costs, not just this weekend but year round. Estimated savings are based on driving 20,000 miles per year in a car that gets 20 miles per gallon with gasoline priced at $3.75 a gallon, the national average.
• Keep tires at the right pressure: Surveys show that 50 percent of vehicles have underinflated tires; that wastes about $750 a year in gas, per car. Improper air pressure also makes tires wear out twice as fast; another $150 in unneeded expense. Get a tire pressure gauge (less than $5) and check your tires monthly. The recommended air pressure for your vehicle’s tires is on the decal pasted to the driver’s door or pillar.
• Change spark plugs: If your 100,000-mile spark plugs have 80,000 miles on them, they’re 80 percent worn. Misfires and incomplete combustion occur more frequently during that last 20,000 miles, costing you almost $562.50 in wasted fuel. Change the plugs early and save.
• Drive slower: Hard acceleration in stop-and-go driving costs you 20 percent in gas mileage. That can add up to $750 a year or more. On the highway, keep your speed to the posted limit (such as 65 mph) and use your cruise control to save more. (You’ll also avoid speeding tickets.)
• Replace the air filter early and often: The average engine sucks 14 million gallons of air through its air filter every year. If it’s clogged, efficiency and gas mileage go down. Replace the filter (usually under $15) at least every 10,000 miles or once a year; you’ll save $270.
• Keep your car aligned: If your tires are bowed out of alignment by just .017 inches, it’s the equivalent of dragging your tire sideways for 102 miles for every 20,000. That’ll cost you $187.50 a year in wasted gas. It also wears down tires faster; another $70 a year. How do you know your car is out of alignment? Buy a tread-depth gauge (about $2) and measure the tread depth on both edges of each tire, including rear tires. If one side of the tire is worn more than the other, your car needs to be aligned.
• Replace a broken or missing spoiler: The plastic air dam (a.k.a. “spoiler”) does more than make a car look sporty. If your car had a spoiler, driving without it or with a damaged one can spoil your gas mileage. The air dam literally “dams off” airflow to the undercarriage of the car, forcing the air up and over the hood. That reduces drag. It also increases airflow to the air conditioner’s condenser and radiator, reducing the load on your car’s electrical system. Contact a junkyard or visit certifit.com to get a replacement air dam. You’ll soon see your gas mileage increase.
For more tips, click on www.familyhandyman.com.
— Debbie Arrington