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Survive This Economy: Getting Better Gas Mileage

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Even though gas prices have thankfully dipped in recent days, everyone's looking for ways to save.

The Wright family is no exception. The suburban couple has two cars and four kids, so they're driving all the time.

CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker shows the Wrights how to improve their gas mileage – tips that could help them save hundreds of dollars a year.

The cost to fill up Marcus Wright's 2003 SUV has jumped from $60 to $75 in the last month.

"It's a pain," he says.

What's equally painful is that while his cost is going up, his mileage per gallon is going down.

"I dropped down maybe two miles" a gallon, Marcus says.

He knows because he has been filling up more often than usual.

So how can the head of the household recover that money and regain lost gas mileage?  Mechanic Rich Reichenberger says it's advice you've heard before.

But in today's economy, consumers need to take a second look at the math.  That two-mile-per-gallon drop means Marcus is losing about $7 every time he fills his tank -- or throwing away $28 a month.

Reminder number one: Change your fuel filter to make it more efficient.

"As it starts to clog, it won't send enough fuel to the vehicle. It starts to labor and cause more miles per gallon," Reichenberger says.

Also, change the oil when the manufacturer suggests, because when it gets dirty the engine works harder and uses more gas. And finally, there's a good reason to check the pressure on your tires.

"You want them to be as full as you can," the mechanic says. "You get better life out of your tire and you're going to increase your fuel economy."

For Marcus, instead of 21 miles per gallon, he could be back to 23.

Here's another way to determine if it's time to take your car in for maintenance.

Write down the mileage when you fill up. Mark it again when you're empty and if you aren't traveling as far as you usually do it could be time to could be time for a check-up.

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