Simple steps can improve car's gas mileage - News, Weather & Sports

Gas mileage 101: Simple tips can save you money

If your car is not getting the gas mileage you think it should, there is probably a simple and cheap solution. If your car is not getting the gas mileage you think it should, there is probably a simple and cheap solution.

(RNN) – Saving money on gas this summer doesn't mean you have to rush out and buy a hybrid vehicle or drive 40 miles per hour.

Although neither would hurt, those are probably not practical ideas for most people.

The best ways to cut down on trips to the pump are with simple steps that require neither a mechanic nor an auto loan.

Tip 1: Keep tires properly inflated.

It sounds like such a trivial thing – and rightfully so because so many people neglect to do it – but poorly inflated tires can waste money in more ways than one. They affect fuel economy and put a driver at bigger risk for a blowout.

A few dollars for a tire gauge plus quarters every once in a while for a gas station air machine are all you need.  A new set of tires, on the other hand, can cost $400 to $500 or more depending on the car.

"If your tires are overinflated or underinflated it will affect fuel economy and will increase wear and tear," said Alec Gutierrez, a senior market analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "As we all know, replacing tires can be quite expensive. Keeping them aligned is also really important."

Also keep in mind the pounds per square inch (PSI) number on the tire sidewall is the maximum inflation setting, not the optimum. The car manufacturer usually places the proper tire pressure on a sticker inside the door or glove box, in the owner's manual or on its website.

Tip 2: Drive slow and steady.

There's a scene in the movie Driving Miss Daisy where she tells her chauffeur that the slower you go, the more gas you save. The old lady might have been annoying, but she was right.

There's no need to clog up traffic, but there's also not much benefit to pushing the pedal to the floor.

Hitting the gas also means slamming on the brakes more often, and that can cause wear to the rotors. The price tag for replacing those can get into the neighborhood of $600 to $700.

Tip 3: Use cruise control.

The website, which the Department of Energy runs, says running your car at a constant speed reduces gas usage and wear on your engine.

Along those lines, it is also a good idea to use the overdrive setting. This reduces the revolutions per minute (RPM), which can extend the life of the engine.

Tip 4: Maintain, maintain, maintain.

Old oil, loose belts or cracked hoses are not costly things to fix. But those little culprits can turn into much more expensive projects down the line, and they can suck gas money from your pocket in the meantime.

"Change your oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Some engines use synthetic oil, and you change the oil every 8,000 to 10,000 miles," Gutierrez said. "It's important to know what type of oil you have. When the mechanic changes your oil, that's not all they're doing. They'll change the timing belt when necessary, keep tires aligned. You don't have to go to the dealership to get it done and know what you need. If you have a trusted mechanic, go there."

Tip 5: Pay attention.

There's no excuse for ignoring the "check engine" light, even when it seems the car is running fine. That is often the first defense for minor fixes that can later turn into big headaches.

A faulty oxygen sensor, for example, can put a 40 percent dent in gas mileage, according to

If you have a habit of turning the radio up or talking on the cell phone while you drive, it is also a good idea to ride with no distractions every once in a while just to listen to for odd noises.

Tip 6: Mild day? Let down the windows.

Some people argue that use of the car's air conditioning is arbitrary, but there isn't much debate among car experts.

"Air conditioning can be a resource hog and impact fuel economy negatively," Gutierrez said. "Unless it's the middle of summer or in a spot where you need to run the air conditioner, crack the window or sunroof."

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