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Gas Saving Tips

Are you drowning under the burden of high gas costs? If taking public transportation isn't an option and you have no immediate plans to buy a hybrid vehicle, is there anything you can do to save gas?

The truth is that the way you drive, the health of your car and your lifestyle all play a part in fuel efficiency. But there are a lot of myths out there, too. We talked to the experts to get to the truth.

Can you save gas by driving at lower speeds?

Yes.

Aggressive driving reduces fuel economy by as much as 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent around town, according to Fueleconomy.gov. "Avoid aggressive driving," says Troy Green, spokesperson for the American Automobile Association (AAA). "Keep the speed limits in mind and avoid sudden starts and hard breaking." Syndicated car columnists Tom and Ray Magliozzi, also known as Click and Clack, state the obvious: "Drive less and walk more." They add that if you must drive, "Drive gently."

Does idling impact fuel efficiency?

Yes.

Experts agree that excessive idling wastes fuel, and areas that encourage idling like restaurant drive-thrus should be avoided altogether. "Avoid excess idling whenever possible. Go ahead and park and go into the restaurant. Even when you pick children up from school, find a parking space rather than needlessly idling," says Green.

Should you avoid using the air-conditioner when driving on the highway?

No.

It is fuel-efficient to drive with your windows down if you are driving in your neighborhood at 25 miles per hour, says Diane MacEachern, author of "Beat High Gas Prices Now!" But if you're driving on the highway, "keeping your windows down creates drag on the car which slows the car down and the car uses more gasoline to gear it up to highway speeds," she says. MacEachern also recommends switching off the air conditioning, radio, lights and windshield wipers before turning off the engine, so that they don't come on automatically when you start the car. This improves the overall efficiency of the car, she says. Goss adds that this is only true for cars that are more than 25 years old.

Is hypermiling a gimmick?

No.

Hypermiling is a driving technique aimed at getting the highest possible mileage out of a vehicle. Some examples of hypermiling are coasting instead of braking and optimizing your route. Although the practice is gaining popularity, some hypermiling methods can be extremely dangerous. Automotive expert Pat Goss says drivers should avoid drafting, which involves getting as close as 4 feet behind a vehicle to take advantage of the wind resistance on your car. This creates a safety hazard in case of a sudden stop.

Another dangerous practice is driving up to the speed limit on the interstate and then coasting at 30-35 miles per hour by shutting off the engine and then starting it again, repeating the cycle of speeding up and coasting.

Green of AAA agrees with the hypermiling practice of using cruise control and overdrive gears to maintain a steady speed, which conserves fuel. "These are driving practices that consider safety first and will be beneficial to fuel economy too," he says.

Does buying gas in the morning give you more for your money?

No.

A common misconception is that buying gasoline in the morning, when it is cooler, can help you save money. The truth is that gasoline can vary its density with temperature, just like any other fluid, but the temperature of the gasoline in the ground doesn't change all that much except for a few degrees a year, Goss explains. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled out time of day as a factor in fuel economy.

Goss recommends that drivers avoid filling up at a gas station where a tank truck is unloading. The truck has likely traveled a long distance in the sun and contains gas that is hotter and less dense.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/cars/features/2008/gas-saving-tips/
 
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