Easy, Inexpensive Ways To Save Big On Gas

Woman driver behind steering wheel of car
Running out to buy a hybrid or other fuel-efficient vehicle isn't your only option to save money on gas.

There are plenty of simple things you can do to get better mileage in the vehicle you own now. They're inexpensive - or free!

On The Early Show Saturday, Lauren Fix, an automotive journalist and author who calls herself "The Car Coach," shared many tips. Fix is with the Car Care Council.

Among her suggestions:

Tighten or replace gas cap. (Last year, 147 million gallons of gas out of car tanks because of loose, missing or broken gas caps.)

Get regular service & oil changes.

Let your engine breathe by changing its air filter. (An air filter clogged with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off the air and creates what's called a "rich" mixture - too much gas being burned for the amount of air, which wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve mileage by as much as 10 percent.)

Replace dirty spark plugs. (A vehicle can have four, six or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as three million times every l,000 miles, resulting in a lot of heat, electrical and chemical erosion. A dirty spark plug causes misfiring and that wastes fuel. Plugs need to be replaced regularly.)

Remove junk from the trunk: An extra 100 pounds in the trunk reduces a typical car's fuel economy by 1-2 percent.

Avoid excessive idling: idling gets zero miles per gallon.

Keep tires properly inflated and rotated. (Properly inflated tires could improve your gas mileage by more than $1.50 every time you fill your tank. The recommended tire pressure for your vehicle is located on a sticker inside your driver-side door, inside your gas door, or in your owner's manual.)

Also make sure your tires stay rotated and balanced; it will make the ride smoother resulting in better gas mileage.

Change your driving habits to improve fuel efficiency by avoiding quick or "jackrabbit" starts and stops. Aggressive driving wastes gas. It can lower your mileage by one-third on the highway and by five percent in the city.

Observe the speed limit; gas mileage decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour.

Use cruise control, because it helps you maintain a constant speed limit.

Use overdrive gears, because the engine speed goes down, saving gas and reducing engine wear.

Use air vents to circulate air instead of air conditioning.

Get off your buns to buy your buns - forget the drive-through at the burger take-out!

Car pool or ride share.

Service your vehicle often and stay on top of regular oil changes. (Keeping up with regular maintenance can improve mileage by an average of 4.1 percent. Results may vary depending on the kind of repair and how well it's performed.)

Follow the recommend octane level for your vehicle.

Combining all those steps into one vehicle and the cost of wasted fuel easily could exceed recent increases in pump prices. It could save you around $1,200 a year.

Even if you follow these simple tips, you should still consider a more fuel-efficient vehicle. The difference between a car that gets 20 MPG and one that gets 30 MPG amounts to $663 per year.

You can also use mass transit, or take two wheels when possible.

Fix also says you should forget the gadgets or gizmos being peddled that promise fuel savings - it's all snake oil.

For plenty of fuel-saving tips from the Car Care Council, click here.