Tips to keep fuel costs down
Gas prices continue to climb as we near the summer traveling season. Here are some tips from the U.S. Department of Energy to help keep your fuel costs down. For more information, visit www.fueleconomy.gov.
Drive more efficiently
Drive sensibly: Aggressive driving - speeding, rapid acceleration and braking - wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town.
Observe the speed limit: Fuel economy decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph, though each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed. You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas.
Remove excess weight: Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle, especially heavy ones. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your miles per gallon by up to 2 percent.
Avoid excessive idling: Idling gets 0 miles per gallon. Cars with larger engines typically waste more gas at idle than do cars with smaller engines.
Use cruise control: Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas.
Use overdrive gears: When you use overdrive gearing, your car's engine speed goes down. This saves gas and reduces engine wear.
Plan your trips: Combining errands into one trip saves you time and money. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. Trip planning ensures that traveling is done when the engine is warmed-up and efficient, and it can reduce the distance you travel.
Plan your commute: Stagger your work hours to avoid peak rush hours. Drive your most fuel-efficient vehicle to work. Consider telecommuting if your employer permits it. Take advantage of carpools and ride-share programs. You can cut your weekly fuel costs in half and save wear on your car if you take turns driving with other commuters; High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, which are typically less congested, further improve your fuel economy. Consider using public transit if it is available and convenient for you.
Keep your car in shape
Keep your engine properly tuned: Fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4 percent, though results vary based on the kind of repair and how well it is done. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40 percent.
Keep tires properly inflated: You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. Properly inflated tires are safer and 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 in your owner's manual. Do not use the maximum pressure printed on the tire's sidewall.
Use the recommended grade of motor oil: You can improve your gas mileage by 1-2 percent by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil. For example, using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can lower your gas mileage by 1-2 percent. Using 5W-30 in an engine designed for 5W-20 can lower your gas mileage by 1-1.5 percent. Also, look for motor oil that says "Energy Conserving" on the API performance symbol to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives.
Drive a more efficient vehicle: The website www.fueleconomy.gov has gas mileage estimates for 1984-2011 model year cars. The difference between a car that gets 20 miles per gallon and one that gets 30 miles per gallon amounts to $948 per year (assuming 15,000 miles of driving annually and a fuel cost of $3.79).
Teirah Williams spends $80 — a third of her paycheck — on fuel each week. But she's not filling up a gas-guzzling SUV. She's in a tiny yellow Ford Focus.
Between school, work and taking care of her 10-month-old, Williams, 19, is pulling up to the pump about three times a week.
"I can't really afford it," Williams said after pumping gas for $3.83 a gallon at the QuikTrip on EE Butler Parkway Sunday.
Gas prices rose 3 cents on Sunday, but this increase wasn't a result of the oil industry.
The Georgia Department of Revenue mandated an increase in the motor fuel sales tax because the average cost of gas has increased by more than 25 percent since the last time the price was evaluated.
According to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the average cost of unleaded fuel in Georgia was $3.82 on Sunday, up 32 cents from a month ago, and up more than a dollar from this time last year.
Georgia's average gas price is 12 cents below the national average of $3.94, but for many drivers, like Diane Weld, it doesn't hurt any less.
Filling up a minivan, Weld, 38, spends about $100 a week driving from her home in Habersham County to work in Cleveland and to church in Gainesville.
She's frustrated the state and national government are not doing more to alleviate the high prices.
"I think it's absolutely ridiculous that gas is going up and they don't want to do anything about it," she said.
In 2008 Gov. Sonny Perdue signed an executive order suspending a 2.9-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase,
saying it would have been too much of a burden on families already struggling with the high gas prices at the time. Georgia's record was set in September of that year, at $4.16 a gallon.
In a recent news conference, Gov. Nathan Deal said he did not plan on suspending the gas tax increase.
Seven years ago, filling up Raymond Cortez's taxi wasn't a problem: gas was just $1.20. Now the 46-year-old Gainesville resident spends $30 a day keeping his car on the road.
He said the rising cost of gas is eating into the money he and other taxi drivers get to bring home.
As much as drivers are feeling the effects of higher-priced fuel in their day-to-day lives, it is also marooning their summer leisure plans.
Williams wanted to visit friends in Indiana over the summer, but now she's not sure she'll have the money to hit the road.
"It depends how money goes because of the gas prices," she said.
Weld is getting married in Tennessee later this month, and she's trying not to dwell on how much it will cost to get there.
"We're trying not to let it affect or ruin any of our plans," Weld said.