Amid soaring prices, here's how to make a tank of gas last longer

You can't change the price of gasoline, but you can change the way you use it, and make every drop count.

First, this might seem obvious: slow down. Every five miles per hour you drive over the speed limit, you're hurting your fuel economy. This is especially true for large trucks and vans, which don't cheat the wind very well at higher speeds.

And remember, don't treat the accelerator pedal like an on-off switch. It's really more like a dimmer switch; turn things up gradually when applying throttle. Smoothness counts when you're looking for maximum mileage.

Restaurant and coffee drive-throughs are convenient, but can cost you in fuel. When you're idling in line, you're getting 0 miles per gallon. Park and walk in, and get some of your daily steps in too.

And then there are the four round rubber things filled with air, your tires. Underinflation can sap fuel economy, for sure. If your car's rolling on underinflated tires, it's not unlike you trying to walk on soft sand instead of pavement. Not as easy.

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Skyrocketing gas prices have fueled an even greater demand for electric vehicles. Southern California dealers specializing in electric and hybrid cars say better fuel economy just isn't cutting it anymore.

Those tire pressure monitoring systems in newer cars are fine, but don't wait until you see a light on the dashboard. Check tires the old-fashioned way, with a tire pressure gauge. They're available at any auto parts store

Recommended pressure is usually located on a decal in a car's door jamb. And be sure to check tires in the morning when they're cool, for accurate readings.

And don't forget other car maintenance. Cars may seem "maintenance-free" these days, but everything from air filters to spark plugs can affect gas mileage if they've been untouched for too long.

Sure, we're only talking about two or three miles per gallon for all these things. But that could mean going an extra 20 to 50 miles on a tank. And considering what a fill-up costs these days, those miles per tank are worth a lot more than they used to be.
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