Potomac News Online | Slow down, lighten up to save gas

WASHINGTON — No more life in the fast lane.

Dump the junk from your trunk, keep your foot off the floor and save tailgating for the ball game.

They’re all easy ways to save gas — and money — now that fuel prices are soaring through the roof.

Speaking of roofs, keep them shut. The aerodynamic drag from an open sunroof can gobble gas.


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Slow down, lighten up to save gas

Then again, that may be better than running the air conditioning. So, if the sticker price at the pump makes you hot under the collar, open the air vents — although be prepared for an argument. Some experts say the difference in fuel efficiency with or without A.C. depends on the model you drive.

The average price of a gallon of gas was $2.26 mid-week — enough to drive any motorist to road rage. Don’t let it.

Aggressive driving — jack-rabbits, tailgating and speeding — can lower gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent around town, according to federal energy officials.

Speed wastes gas, so abide by the speed limit. Studies have shown that driving 75 mph instead of 65 cuts gas mileage 10 percent, while driving 70 instead of 55 reduces mileage 17 percent.

A recent Gallup poll found the price of gas is one of the top three issues people want President Bush and Congress to fix, after terrorism and health care costs.

But “the reality is … Americans are not willing to give up their driving based on price alone,” said Geoff Sundstrom, spokesman for the American Automobile Association.

Americans love their cars.

There are almost as many cars on the road as there are people — 230 million vehicles in 2002, including 24 million gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Americans drive an average 15,000 to 20,000 miles a year. They watch TV shows like “Pimp My Ride.”

Yet experts estimate that simply changing driving habits can save up to 20 percent in fuel consumption.

A good tune-up can improve gas mileage 4 percent or more. Properly inflated tires can boost gas mileage 3 percent, and using the grade of oil manufacturers recommend can result in a 1 or 2 percent gain in gas mileage.

Try not to load up the roof rack. A loaded roof rack can reduce fuel economy by 5 percent. Every 100 pounds of weight in the trunk decreases fuel efficiency by about 2 percent.

Don’t bother buying premium, higher-priced gas. Most cars don’t need it unless the owner’s manual says otherwise.

The AAA estimates a motorist whose car gets 30 miles to the gallon pays at least $300 less for gas every year than the motorist whose car gets 20 miles to the gallon (and that’s based on $1.50 gas prices). A hybrid car, which runs on gas and electricity, can double fuel efficiency.

Beware gimmicky “gas-saving” products such as fuel additives. The Federal Trade Commission says most don’t work.

Carpool. If political rivals Pat Buchanan, an arch conservative, and feisty Democrat James Carville can do it — as part of a new campaign to encourage carpooling between Northern Virginia and Washington — so can you.

Finally, try burning calories instead of gas. Walk.

Marilyn Rauber writes for the Washington bureau of Media General News Service.

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