Save on Your Next Fill-Up

In May 2011, the average price of a gallon of gas reached a three-year high, at nearly $4 a gallon. It then fell for seven months in a row, until rising again this month to $3.52.

It used to be that the price of gas rose and fell with American demand. Now that countries like China, India and Brazil are stepping up demand, prices are dependent on an increasing number of global factors. This can leave the American consumer feeling helpless about the price of fuel.

I have some tips that will reduce the impact of high gas prices on your wallet.

1. Make sure your tires are properly inflated. This is probably the most important thing you can do to get better gas mileage. This also reduces wear on your tires, helping them last longer. If you have a spare tire, check that one too. Depending on your vehicle, you can find the recommended pressure on a sticker in the glove box, on the door frame, or in the owner’s manual. Important: don’t use the pressure listed on the tire itself — this is the maximum pressure the tire can handle. It may or may not be the optimal pressure for your vehicle.

2. Remove extra items from your vehicle. Those old textbooks and hockey gear in the trunk? They could be costing you extra for gas. The heavier your vehicle, the harder your engine has to work and the more gas it requires. Remove all items you don’t regularly use to make your vehicle as light as possible. This includes luggage carriers and bike racks not in use, which not only add weight but also increase wind resistance.

3. Change oil and other fluids at recommended intervals. Engine oil is one of the most important fluids under the hood. It lubricates various engine components, helps prevent corrosion, and cleans the engine. Although you’ll probably be changing the oil most frequently, it’s also important to change other fluids as recommended by the owner’s manual. Keeping up with fluid changes helps your engine run efficiently and prevents problems later on.

4. Use Gasbuddy. This is my go-to website to find the best gas prices in my area. They also have an app for those with smart phones. On Gasbuddy, enter your zip code and get an up-to-date list of the best user-submitted prices. Other useful features on this site include an interactive gas price map and a trip cost calculator.

5. Change your driving habits. Braking hard, accelerating quickly and driving above 70 mph all contribute to below-average fuel economy. I’m a slow driver by nature. Driving through town, I try to maintain a constant speed and won’t accelerate more than necessary. As soon as I see a stoplight ahead turning yellow, I let off the accelerator and coast to the light. On interstates, I try to stay below 70 mph and set the cruise control when possible. The key to getting good gas mileage is steady driving. Steady acceleration, steady breaking, and steady speeds.

Photo by Svadilfari

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