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Gas Saving Tips

Memorial Day weekend marked the beginning of road-trip season. To make sure you have some extra cash while on vacation, Robert Sinclair, manager of public information for AAA, joins The Saturday Early Show to share some car tips that can help you save.

Before heading out, it's very important to make sure your car is in overall good service. There are two main things that come to mind:

  1. Keep your tires properly inflated. This is not only an important gas-saving measure, but also very important for safety. For every pound per square inch that your tires are under-inflated, you use one to two percent gas mileage. In layman's terms: If there's not enough air in your tires, it increases the rolling resistance. It becomes hard to push along.

    Also, when the tire is under-inflated, it tends to flex more. This builds up internal heat in the components of the tire. Heat is the enemy!

  2. Get your car a tune-up. You need to make sure your car's engine is in optimum running condition. If you have a newer vehicle, any car after '95 or '96, you need to take it to a dealer to get it tuned up. If you have an older car, taking it a mechanic will suffice. Why does a new car need a dealer? There are so many electrical components to new vehicles. It costs more to go to a dealer, but it's worth it in the long run.
    Things that should be checked during a tune-up:
    • Make sure the air filter is changed twice a year. A clogged air filter is going to put extra strain on your engine. Anything that makes the path of travel for the air less restrictive for your engine, makes it more efficient.
    • Make sure you have the best motor oil for your car. We're approaching the hot weather months and synthetics are superior in terms of dealing with heat. Using synthetic oil can also minimally aid gas mileage. Synthetic motor oils are super slippery and therefore reduce internal mechanical friction. The motor oil is there to lubricate the engine; its purpose is to gather up impurities resulting from the combustion process. Synthetic oils are more expensive, ($1.25 a quart vs $3.50 to $5 a quart) but in the long run, you can go longer in using a synthetic between oil changes.
    • Make sure you check you car's thermostat. An improper thermostat can affect your gas mileage. The thermostat regulates the flow of coolant (anti-freeze and water mix) into the engine. Many times, when we come off the cooler weather, your car can be down on its coolant level. When it gets too hot, your engine could overheat.
Another important tip: Pack lightly. The more weight you carry in your car, the bigger the strain on the engine. Avoid items on the roof. A lot of weight on the top of the car will destroy the aerodynamics. Aerodynamics is how the vehicle passes more efficiently through the air. Lighter aerodynamics is an easy way to get more out of your gas mileage. More weight ruins gas mileage

If your vehicle is at around 6,000 or 7,000 miles, a common problem is the breaking of the timing chain or timing belt. Inspection of the timing belt is very important for a number of reasons. For one thing, the belt runs the valves of the engine. This is what allows the fuel to come in and out. If they break, it is not only very inconvenient in terms of time and money to get it fixed, but you could do a lot of internal damage to your engine.

In older cars, you need to pay more attention to changing the spark plugs, changing the transmission fluid and the engine oil. In newer models, you often don't have to worry about any of this.

As for saving money at the pump, AAA's Sinclair says we may have already seen the peak in gas prices. This year is odd, because we are 20 cents a gallon, on average, ahead of last year's pace. The conditions that led to gas prices going up have gotten better over the past two weeks.

Do not purchase mid-grade or premium gasoline unless it is recommended by the vehicle's manufacturer. High-octane, premium fuels are generally used in high performance engines.

Here are some things you can do to make your car more fuel efficient the minute you leave your house:

  • Start your trip early in the morning to avoid congestion on the roads.
  • Use cruise control. Maintaining a steady speed gives you the best fuel economy. Higher speeds require more gasoline. The more you accelerate and decelerate, the more fuel you'll burn.
  • Plan meal stops during congested times.
  • Don't let your engine sit idle. Avoid two-lane or winding roads unless you're on a scenic road trip. If you're at a store, turn your engine off. An idle engine consumes a gallon of gas every half-hour. Your car should never be sitting there just running.
  • You should use your air-conditioning sparingly. Use it to cool off your car initially, but once it gets cool, put it on re-circulation mode. The re-circulation mode will allow the circulation of unchilled air.

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