Whether it’s a Fourth of July weekend outing or an extended vacation, motorists are expected to be in their vehicles more than usual this summer. With gasoline costing $4 a gallon or more, they will want to do everything possible to squeeze the last mile from every drop.
Properly maintaining the family vehicle and driving the speed limit can save $372 a year in gasoline costs, according to Lisa Wheeler of the media relations department of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
“By regularly changing the oil, checking tire pressure, and replacing filters, a car’s emissions are reduced and gas mileage improves up to 5 percent, saving up to 35 cents per gallon of fuel used,” Wheeler said this week in press statement. “For example, by driving a well-maintained car with a 13-gallon gas tank, filled-up once a week, consumers could save $4.55 a week, or $237 a year.”
A Memorial Day survey by AAA Texas found that more than half of its members have cut back significantly the number of miles they are driving as a result of higher gasoline costs, and that households with incomes of $50,000 a year or less are the most likely to be taking steps to boost vehicle mileage.
“There is no doubt that gas prices are having a big impact on many Texans,” said Mark Bell, regional vice president and general manager for AAA Texas. “Drivers are changing how they drive and how often because of the relentless upward swing in gas prices.”
The TCEQ offered these fuel-saving tips:
• Check tire pressure — With the maximum recommended pressure, tires will last longer, deliver better gas mileage and be safer on the road.
• Replace air filters — Clogged air filters cause engines to work harder, requiring more fuel. Replacing filters improves your vehicle’s fuel economy by as much as 10 percent.
• Pay attention to the check engine light — Repairing a minor problem improves gas mileage by as much as 4 percent. Fixing a serious problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40 percent.
• Reduce idling — If you expect to idle for more than 30 seconds, park your vehicle, turn it off, and go inside. Idling will waste fuel and creates more emissions than restarting the engine.
• Slow down — You can improve fuel economy by 5 percent, if driving in town, or by up to 33 percent on the highway. Typically for every 5 miles per hour you drive over 60 miles per hour, it’s like paying an additional 20 cents per gallon of gas you use. If you have a 13-gallon fuel tank, you can save $2.60 per tank just by driving the speed limit. This adds up to an annual savings of $135.
Another way to save fuel is to not top off the tank to round-off a purchase. Fuel escapes as vapor, polluting the air, and also increases the chance for spilling gas. Make sure the gas cap is properly tightened; otherwise, gas will evaporate from the tank.
The survey of AAA Texas members found that the most common action taken in response to higher fuel prices has been to combine errands (70 percent). Other actions reported in the survey include:
• Reducing overall driving (52 percent)
• Cutting back on eating out or entertainment (33 percent)
• More frequently using the household vehicle with the best fuel economy (29 percent)
• Reducing average driving speed to increase fuel efficiency (28 percent)
• Regularly checking tires for proper inflation (26 percent)
• Telecommuting (10 percent)
• Canceling a planned vacation (9 percent)
• Using another means of transportation such as transit, biking or walking (8 percent)
• Buying a car that gets better gas mileage (8 percent)
• Carpooling or van pooling (6 percent)
Other actions AAA Texas members have taken include shopping for the cheapest gas and setting strict limits on how many miles they drive or how often they use the car.