Properly driving and maintaining your car can save you serious money. The Family Handyman gives six tips to save hundreds of dollars a year with careful car care and use. It's based on driving 20,000 miles a year, in a car that gets 20 mpg, with gas costing an average of $3.75 a gallon.
1. Keep tires at the right pressure by using a tire pressure gauge monthly. Underinflated tires can cost you about $750 a year. Those improperly inflated tires can also wear out your tires twice as fast, costing you another $150 a year.
2. Change spark plugs before they're due, to save almost $562 in wasted fuel from misfires and incomplete combustion. If your 100,000-mile spark plugs, for example, have almost 80,000 miles on them, they're 80 percent worn and should be replaced to save money.
3. Replace your air filter at least every 10,000 miles or once a year to save $270.
4. Keep your car aligned to save $187.50 a year in wasted gas and $70 a year from worn tires.
5. Drive slower to save $750 a year. Don't speed in urban areas — only to waste gas at a stop light. If you do a lot of highway driving, keep your speed at 55 mph and use your cruise control to save.
6. Replace your oxygen sensors, which track the amount of oxygen remaining in the exhaust. They degrade over time, and that can cost you up to 15 percent in gas mileage. When they fail, the computer lights up your "service engine soon" light, forcing you to incur an $80 diagnostic fee. On pre-1996 vehicles, replace your oxygen sensor every 60,000 miles. On 1996 and newer vehicles, replace the sensors every 100,000 miles. Oxygen sensors cost about $60 each. Some vehicles have as many as four, but the sensors installed behind the catalytic converter rarely fail.