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Auto Club recommends fuel-efficiency tips

April 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Gasoline prices keep going up, way up, and there's not much we can do about that. But there are ways of saving or conserving the gas you buy at the pump.

The official national average for regular gas is now $3.62 per gallon, which looks like a bargain compared to the $4-plus we're paying in California.

You can't do much about the price, but you can use each gallon more wisely.

"The number one thing you can do to save fuel is modify the way you drive," said Steve Mazor, manager of the Auto Club's Automotive Research Center

Mazor knows more about engines and cars than almost anyone. His tips include being smooth with the throttle.

"Slow down, accelerate gently, and anticipate what's ahead of you. If the light is red, take your foot off the accelerator and coast on up," said Mazor.

You can also make sure your car is rolling easily by getting the tire pressure to the proper level.

"You can lose as much as 2 percent of your miles per gallon if your tires are as little as one pound under-inflated," said Mazor.

What about octane? Check the owner's manual of your car. The vast majority will run fine on 87.

Don't fall victim to myths, like:

"Putting premium gas in your car will get you better performance and better gas mileage, and save you money. Unless your car requires premium, all you're doing is wasting money using that," said Mazor.

And if you get an email for some miracle product that goes in the gas, in the oil or on the engine and promises improved mileage, delete it.

Triple A and the Environmental Protection Agency have been testing such claims for decades.

"Neither agency has ever found one that actually worked. So if it seems too good to be true, it probably is," said Mazor.

Does air-conditioning make a difference in your mileage? Mazor says with modern cars, it makes just the slightest difference. It's probably not worth leaving the air-conditioner off -- he says you might as well be comfortable, because with gas prices as high as they are, you're probably getting hot under the collar every time you fill up.

American Automobile Association fuel-efficiency tips:

  • Slow down, and drive smoothly, especially when accelerating. Anticipate traffic and red lights so you can coast instead of staying on the throttle.
  • Keep tires properly inflated to the car manufacturer's spec (not the number molded into the tire's sidewall ? that's a maximum pressure). Even 1 pound below proper pressure can affect fuel economy. And don't rely on in-car tire pressure monitors, as those only warn when tires are dangerously low. Tires should be checked first thing in the morning when they're cold.
  • Don't use a higher octane than is required by your car's manufacturer, which can be found in the owner's manual. Mid-grade or premium fuel may be "recommended" in some applications, but you can still use 87 octane gas. A small percentage of high-performance cars will list 91 octane premium fuel as "required," which should be followed. Putting higher-octane fuel in a car designed for regular does not increase performance, fuel economy, or engine cleaning. Those are myths.
  • There are no "miracle" products that will increase gas mileage. Things that are poured into the gas tank, into engine oil, or fastened onto the engine or gas tank have been tested by both the Auto Club and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the years, and not once has one been found to improve fuel economy. Even though most of these products will come advertised with testimonials of results, there is no science behind them.