Ways to Save at the Pump


April 20, 2011

The rising cost of gas can really put an extra strain on your budget. The Fairfax County Department of Vehicle Services encourages residents to try some of these fuel saving strategies to help offset the high price at the pump.

1. Slow down on highways

Most vehicles reach peak fuel efficiency at speeds between 45 and 55 miles per hour. According to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) figures, you lose 7 to 23 percent of fuel efficiency for every five miles per hour in excess of 60 MPH. Some drivers might save a gallon of gas a week this way.

2. Keep calm and close the windows

DOE says aggressive driving (including rapid acceleration and hard braking as well as speeding) wastes gas. Driving aggressively can lower your highway gas mileage 33 percent and city mileage 5 percent. Using cruise control is one way to smooth out mileage. If you can, schedule your driving to avoid peak rush hours. Driving down the highway with your windows open also creates drag, and lowers mileage.

3. Keep tires inflated

You can improve your gas mileage up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires at the recommended air pressure, the federal website fueleconomy.gov says. The savings may not be big, but you'll be making your car safer and helping your tires last longer. The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is usually found on a sticker in the driver's side door jamb or the glove box and owner's manual. Do not use the maximum pressure printed on the tire's sidewall.

4. Turn the engine off

Picking someone up? Held up at a railroad crossing? Shut off your engine and conserve fuel. You'll be saving money and doing the environment a favor.

5. Remove needless weight

"Carrying 100 extra pounds in your vehicle could reduce your gas mileage by 1 to 2 percent," according to DOE. If you haven't bothered to look in your trunk or under the seats lately, it might be a real pay-off to spend a few minutes removing all unnecessary items.

6. Keep up with maintenance

Tuning up your vehicle regularly can boost gas mileage by an average of four percent, according to fueleconomy.gov. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40 percent.

7. Pump wisely

It is suggested not to pump gas from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. when a "red" air quality alert has been announced. When you're finished pumping, be sure the cap is screwed on tight.

8. Carpool

By shifting from driving alone to ride-sharing with someone else, you may cut costs by more than half. Choosing this option can be your entry pass to a faster high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane on the highway. Several websites exist to help potential carpoolers in the same area connect.Talk to co-workers already using a carpool and find out how they did it, and how they like it.

9. Drive less

Combining several errands into one trip, whether business or personal, can payoff in lower gas bills. Several short trips, each from a cold start, can double your fuel-use compared with a single trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. Bicycling, telecommuting or using public transit can eliminate a car commute to and from work.


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