6 surprising ways to minimize your pain at the pump

By Rolayne Fairclough, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Mar 18th, 2013 @ 8:58am

SALT LAKE CITY — There are many things that influence the cost of gas; all of which are unfortunately out of our control. The good news is that we can control how we use gas for our vehicles. And the more efficient choices we make, from the cars we drive to the ways we drive them, the more we can save on fuel expenses. Below are six less commonly known ways of reducing your car's gas consumption and saving money.

  1. Mind the speed limit

    It is common knowledge that speed limits are set for our safety, but did you know it is also good for our wallets? For example, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that when driving on the highway, every five miles over the speed limit makes your gas $.26 more expensive because your car is that much less efficient. Remember to slow down and save.

  2. Keep cool

    Here in Utah, summer temperatures can be nearly unbearable, but so can the cost of fueling a vehicle that is constantly blasting the air conditioner and guzzling gas. When possible, roll down the windows to cool things off. Be aware, however, that when you are traveling faster than 55 mph, it is actually more fuel-efficient to use the air conditioner because of the drag and resistance caused by the open windows at those higher speeds. Also consider finding parking spots in the shade, even if it means a little bit of a longer walk. And when purchasing a car, remember that lighter paint colors attract less light and keep cars from reaching such high temperatures.

  3. Be idle-free

    Waiting for someone at the airport? Sitting in a drive-through? Defrosting your car in the morning? Doing that with your engine running is called idling, and it is a total gas guzzler. Furthermore, did you know it is illegal in Utah to idle your car for more than two minutes? It's actually takes less gas if you turn your car off and restart it when you're ready to go.

  4. Time for a new air filter?

    Did you know that a having a clean air filter can improve your car's fuel-efficiency by up to 10 percent? That is something to consider the next time you get your oil changed.

  5. Don't forget your tires

    Yes, even your tires play a significant role in your car's gas mileage. Both their air pressure and their alignment can influence how your car has to work to move. When a car's tires are out of alignment, it can make it 10 percent less efficient. Also, driving on underinflated tires can be both dangerous and inefficient. Top off your tires every couple weeks to ensure you are keeping them properly pumped.

  6. Drive smart

    The biggest reason to drive smartly is your own safety. You are a far greater commodity than gas, but the fact that smart driving can also reduce your cost at the pump can act as a significant motivator to some. There are a couple of conservative driving habits that can both keep you safer and reduce your fuel use. When accelerating, do so gradually. Punching the gas can be hard on your engine and can waste your fuel. Also, if you can anticipate red lights, you can sometimes keep from having to fully stop your car. Starting from a complete stop takes more gas than accelerating when the car is already in motion. And, when you can, use your cruise control. In addition to keeping you from inadvertently speeding, the constant speed from cruise control can help keep you from using unnecessary gas.

    So although we cannot change how much we are going to pay for each gallon of gas, we can affect how many gallons we have to buy. And, in the long run, many of these tips also keep your car in better running condition, which will lower your overall auto costs.

    Travel wisely and travel safely!

    Rolayne Fairclough

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