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Tips to maximize gas mileage

Gas prices are still high, and we can all use some help saving at the pump. There's no magic bullet (except walking or riding a bike instead), but there are plenty of little things you can do when driving. Taken together, you should see some savings.

Check tire pressure

A government survey found that a third of us are driving around with improperly inflated tires, says Robert Sinclair Jr., AAA New York's manager of media relations. "That creates extra rolling resistance, which makes the engine work harder." Look at the manual or sticker usually in the driver's doorway (not the side of the tire; that number is the maximum inflation of what the tire can handle) and make sure your tires are properly inflated.

Slow down

Fast cars are exciting — in the movies. But in real life, there's nothing thrilling about seeing your money race out of your wallet. Anytime you are lowering your speed, you are lowering your energy consumption. The faster you go, the harder the engine works due to increased wind resistance, and the more gas you burn. "For every 5 miles over 60 miles an hour you are traveling, it's like adding 25 cents to the gallon of gasoline," says Sinclair.

Watch the lead foot

Slow down gently. Speed up gently. As Sinclair points out, if you've ever had the displeasure of breaking down and had to push a vehicle from a dead stop, you'll know it takes a tremendous amount of energy to get the car moving. If you do jackrabbit starts, you use a lot more gas than if you slowly accelerate. Same for braking — if you see a red light in the distance and come off the gas sooner, braking gently, that means you won't be burning fuel for that distance. (Your passengers will thank you for not putting them through a barf-inducing ride, too. Bonus!)

Lose the weight

"When you are loading up your vehicle, keep the weight as light as possible," says Sinclair. "You're not on a sinking ship, but it's the old 'junk in the trunk' syndrome. Get rid of it." Take out child car seats your kids have long outgrown; remove the dog crate (unless there's a dog in it); and if you have a three-row SUV, take out the last row of seats if you don't use them.

Think aerodynamics

Our expert counsels us not to put things on the outside of the vehicle if at all possible. "Aerodynamics is very important as far as the vehicle passing through the air more efficiently. Try not to lash stuff to the outside unless it is unavoidable." Big boxes on the roof wrapped in plastic makes your engine really work, so try to pack lighter — and smarter.

Don't search for cheap gas

Ever go to a different store to save cash on a particularly item, only to realize you spent at least that much on gas? Don't burn gas looking for the cheap gas. Check out AAA's own Triptik Mobile app (free for Android and iPhone) or www.gasbuddy.com and its own app (free for Android, iPhone and Windows) to find the cheapest and closest gas station to you.

Tips to maximize gas mileage 08/31/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 4:30am]
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