With the summer driving season upon us, prices at the pump are moving into uncharted territory. And while it's possible to save money by taking fewer trips, for most people some driving is unavoidable. Here are some driving and car maintenance tips to help you maximize your miles per gallon:
Drive smoothly and safely. Rapid acceleration and sudden braking can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent in city driving. You are much better off driving at a constant speed. Safe speeds are fuel-efficient speeds. The average car reaches maximum efficiency at 30 MPH and maintains it through 60 MPH, at which point fuel efficiency drops off dramatically. A great way to enforce both these habits is to activate your cruise control for highway driving.
Travel light. Don't treat your car like a closet. Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle, especially heavy ones. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk could reduce your mileage by up to 2 percent and even more if you have a small car.
Be a smart driver. When you're moving at highway speeds, make sure you're using your car's overdrive gear. Being a smart driver also applies to occasions when you're not moving. Avoid unnecessary idling. When your car is running but not moving, you're logging 0 MPG.
Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Underinflated tires can lower your MPG by 0.4 percent for each pound under the recommended pressure. In addition, underinflated tires wear out more quickly and are prone to blowouts.
Keep your engine properly tuned and maintained. You can't optimize your gas mileage unless your engine is running at peak efficiency—and that means regular tune-ups and maintenance. A small problem—like a faulty oxygen sensor—can drop your gas mileage by as much as 40 percent! Replacing dirty air filters can boost mileage by 10 percent.
Watching your gas mileage offers a number of additional benefits besides saving you money. When you drive conservatively and maintain your vehicle regularly, you are reinforcing your safety behind the wheel. At the same time, driving a fuel-efficient car helps reduce our dependency on foreign oil and diminishes the amount of greenhouse gases and pollutants we pump into the air.