Gasoline prices shot up 48 cents a gallon in Los Angeles this past month and they could climb even higher, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. The Automobile Club of Southern California is recommending strategies car owners and drivers can use to reduce annual fuel use by up to 50 percent.
“Motorists can significantly reduce fuel consumption and save money by simply adjusting their driving style,” said the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center Manager Steve Mazor. “Driving style impacts motorists’ wallets because warming up an engine, speeding and ‘jack rabbit’ starts can needlessly use precious fuel,” according to Mazor.
Driving style and vehicle operation recommendations include:
- Knowing correct starting procedure for the car. Racing an engine to warm it up wastes fuel.
- Maintaining steady speeds. A car uses extra fuel when it accelerates. Cruise control may be a fuel saving option for motorists who drive a lot because a steady speed conserves fuel. This is helpful when driving on level roads. However, cruise control can actually hurt your mileage if you drive on hilly terrain and the cruise control causes the vehicle to downshift.
- Minimizing braking. Anticipate traffic conditions. Be alert for slow-downs and red lights and coast up to them, if possible.
- Using the air conditioner only when necessary. Air conditioning reduces fuel economy by about 5 percent and more in an older model vehicle. The rule of thumb on hot days is to open your windows when you are driving slowly (under about 45 mph), but close them and turn on the air conditioner at higher speeds. Driving with the windows open can increase the aerodynamic drag, and this effect increases proportionately with speed. A light exterior color and light interior cloth seats and tinted windows can reduce heat build-up, thus reducing the need for air conditioning.
- Shopping for low gasoline prices in their local communities may save motorists money, according to Mazor, but traveling long distances to save a few cents wastes fuel and may cost motorists more money than they save.
More tips to save gasoline and money include:
- Read your owner’s manual for the recommended fuel for your vehicle. If it says “regular unleaded gasoline” is recommended, using anything else is a wallet-drainer, and if it says “premium required” you must use it for proper vehicle operation. (However, when your manual says mid-grade or premium “recommended”, read carefully; sometimes it indicates you can use regular unleaded to save money, but you may experience reduced power and/or a small reduction in fuel economy.)
- Look into gas rebate programs such as the AAA Visa® card and other credit cards that provide a rebate every time you fill up. Some grocery stores also provide a gasoline discount program. Use the AAA Triptik® app to locate the lowest gas prices.
- For families that have more than one vehicle, select the one that meets the task at hand. Don’t automatically jump into the “battle cruiser” when the sedan will do. Consider renting a fuel-efficient vehicle for vacations and long trips to save on fuel costs. Conversely, consider renting a full size truck instead of buying it if you only need its capabilities occasionally. Use the most energy-conserving vehicle you own as much as possible.
- Track your fuel economy; if it drops suddenly, have the cause determined and corrected.
- Consolidate trips and errands to cut down on driving and number of miles driven.
- Plan your route and look for a location where you can take care of all or most errands. . Avoid excessive idling. Parking your vehicle and walking into the store or restaurant instead of using a drive through will save gas and the walking may improve your health. Choose a shopping center where you can park and walk to most of the stores you need.
- Look at your work schedule; can you shift your working hours to avoid bumper to bumper traffic? Is carpooling an option? Both can save gas and reduce vehicle wear.
- Comparison shop by telephone, the Internet or through newspaper ads to reduce driving.
- Properly maintaining your vehicle is critical in reducing gas use, according to Mazor. Under-inflated tires, for example, can cut fuel economy by up to 2 percent per pound of pressure below the minimum recommended level. Worn spark plugs and dirty air filters also increase fuel consumption.
- Slow down and drive smoothly, avoiding “jackrabbit starts.” The faster you drive, the more fuel used. Remember, however, that traveling slower than traffic flow can cause a safety hazard.
- Don't haul extra weight in the passenger compartment or trunk. Reducing extra weight can save up to 2% fuel economy for every 100 lbs. removed depending on the weight of the vehicle. Also lose the roof rack, if it’s not being used regularly. Carrying things on a roof rack increases aerodynamic drag and reduces fuel economy – year round.