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Minimize fuel costs with driving skills, car care

By Linda Breazeale

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Consumers may not be able to control the price of gasoline, but they can adjust their driving techniques and maintain vehicles for peak performance.

Herb Willcutt, an agricultural engineering professor with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said good maintenance and proper care of the tires are keys to good gas mileage.

“Tires should be close to the maximum air pressure level recommended on the tire for the best gas mileage. The tighter the tire, the rougher the ride, but don't go more than 10 percent less than the recommendation,” Willcutt said. “Remove unneeded heavy items, such as equipment, from cargo areas to eliminate excess weight. An extra 100 pounds may reduce a vehicle's fuel economy by up to 2 percent.”

If possible, remove any items, such as tools, to reduce weight or that may cause drag or wind resistance. A camper shell will reduce drag on a pick-up truck resulting in an increase in gas mileage of up to 5 percent or about 1 mile per gallon. Willcutt said a good wax job can have a slight improvement on fuel efficiency.

Another choice drivers of two-car families can make is selecting the vehicle with the best gas mileage whenever possible.

Driving habits play a significant role in fuel efficiency.

“Drive like a mature adult, not a teenager. Slower, smoother starts and stops will make a difference,” Willcutt said. “Do not exceed the speed limit, and if possible, drive under it. Allow plenty of time to reach the destination without speeding.”

Willcutt recommended carpooling as much as possible. Invite neighbors and friends to share rides to the grocery store and other locations. Avoid making several short trips by combining errands. Decide if the trip really is necessary now or if it can wait.

“If available, the cruise control can help fuel efficiency in relatively flat areas, but it will not be as efficient in hilly terrain when drivers would otherwise anticipate steeper hills and adjust gas accordingly,” he said. “Minimize idling, and avoid sitting in a car with the air conditioner running.”

Bobbie Shaffett, associate Extension professor of family resource management, said as gas prices go up, consumers will need to adjust their spending habits along with their driving habits.

“When one budget item increases dramatically, something else has to be reduced to make ends meet,” Shaffett said. “Families should not continue their spending habits as if nothing has changed.”

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Released: July 20, 2006
Contact: Herb Willcutt, (662) 325-7345 or Dr. Bobbie Shaffett, (662) 325-3080

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