Following last year's phenomenal spike in gas prices, most of us have really started paying attention to our driving habits -- how much we drive, how we drive, and even if we drive. At the Department of Consumer Protection, we’ve come up with some ideas that can help.
1. A well maintained car will use less fuel, so Keep your car well tuned A poorly tuned engine will increase your fuel consumption by up to 20 percent. Make sure your transmission fluid is always at the right level too.
Change the oil in your car according to the manufacturer’s instructions, or roughly every 3,500 miles. Be sure to use the right grade of oil for your car depending on the season and driving conditions.
Replace the air and fuel filter in your car. A clogged air filter can reduce mileage by up to 10 percent.
2. Tires affect your miles per gallon. Poorly aligned tires will make the engine work harder and burn more fuel. You can tell if your car needs an alignment if there is a pulling on the steering wheel when you are driving. Also, regularly rotating your tires and checking them for uneven wear will save in both tires and gas costs.
Buy a tire gauge and check your car’s tire pressure every month. Driving on under-inflated tires can reduce fuel efficiency by 2 percent for each pound that the tires are under-inflated. If your tires are low on air, you’re wasting gas and money. The best time to check your tire pressure is when the tires are cool – not right after a long drive. In hot weather, check the pressure during the coolest part of the day.
By the way, it’s against the law for gas stations in Connecticut to charge you for using their air hose to inflate your tires. The law says that air for tires has to be free. Call us if you experience a problem in this area.
3. Remove unnecessary weight from the car. Items like kitty litter, topsoil and fertilizer can really weigh your car down. Don’t carry heavy items in your car any longer than absolutely necessary. Be aware that roof racks and bike racks create “drag” which increases your fuel costs as well, so when packing for a trip, fit as much of your gear in the trunk as you can.
4. Shop smart for gas – Don’t drive well out of your way to save a few pennies a gallon. Keep your eyes open for good prices along your normal commute.
5. Use the Internet to find good prices Several sites on the Internet can help you find the cheapest gas in your area. A national site that has links to at least a dozen websites that offer Connecticut gas prices is www.fueleconomy.gov
. Here are a few more:
6. Buy gas in the middle of the week, when prices tend to be a bit lower. Weekends and holidays often see slightly higher fuel prices, so if you can fill up mid-week, you may save a few cents per gallon.
7. Pay in ways that help you save the most. While many gas stations now offer reduced prices for cash, be sure it’s a real savings to you. The station right across the street may be offering gas for even less, so make sure you’re really saving by paying with cash.
If you have to pay a high ATM fee to get that cash, are you really going to save in the long run? For example, if the ATM fee is $3.00 and you’re only putting ten gallons into your tank, you’d have to be saving 30 cents a gallon just to break even.
If you prefer to use credit at the pump, think about getting a gasoline credit card which offers a five or ten percent rebate back on every gasoline purchase.
Over a year, you can get a lot back in rebates this way. Of course, to really save, you need to pay your credit card bill on time to avoid finance charges. Other credit and debit cards provide reward points, coupons or other benefits for your purchase, so you can offset the price of gas with savings somewhere else.
8. See what your existing club memberships offer -- wholesale clubs, automobile clubs, and a number of other organizations often offer gas discounts to members. Some grocery stores even provide money saving coupons for gasoline with their grocery receipts.
9. Use the lowest grade of gasoline recommended for your vehicle. For most cars, higher octane gas is a waste of money, and octane has nothing to do with the quality of the gas.
Check your manual to see if you can use regular gas. You’ll save a lot on each fillup.
10. Don’t run your gas tank too close to empty. When you drive near or on “Empty” you’re actually burning more fuel, because your vehicle is struggling to operate. Try to keep your gas tank at least ¼ full.