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Squeezing more miles out of your car

Posted: July 12, 2008 1:35 a.m.
Updated: September 12, 2008 5:04 a.m.

Karen Small of Valencia pumps gas at the Shell station on the corner of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard. Filling up her tank used to cost $65: now it costs $100.

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Sick of watching the numbers on the gas pump top the $60 and even $70 mark during your visit to the gas station? It's a common feeling among all sorts of drivers, and even with high gas prices taking a toll, we still have to pay those gas bills.

But with advice from the AAA's "Gas Watcher's Guide" and Fuel Economy Web site, run by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, drivers can squeeze more miles from their dollars and, ultimately, find themselves driving by gas stations - and not pulling next to a pump.

Before you get in
n Think about where you can consolidate your trips and errands. For instance, many popular banks have opened branches in supermarkets, giving people a way to reduce their trips. Also, plan ahead and try to make one trip to take care of all your errands.

n Performing routine maintenance on a vehicle can help fuel efficiency. The AAA suggests checking the condition of a car's spark plugs, as well as checking the air and fuel filters at least twice a year. After checking under the hood, look at the tires to make sure they are inflated. According to AAA, tires that are not properly inflated can cut fuel economy by as much as 2 percent per pound of pressure below the recommended level. And under-inflated tires are also safety hazards.

n If you are considering buying a new car, the AAA reminds drivers that vehicles with automatic transmissions can use more gasoline than those equipped with manual transmissions - smaller engines usually mean better gas mileage.

n Before getting in your car, clean it out. Removing excess weight can improve fuel efficiency. The Department of Energy notes that an extra 100 pounds in a vehicle can reduce the MPG by up to two percent.

Behind the wheel
n Even though driving the streets of Santa Clarita Valley leaves many drivers stuck in stop and go traffic, maintain a constant speed as much as you can. According to the AAA, a car uses extra fuel when it accelerates. Furthermore, the Department of Energy notes that aggressive driving, such as rapid acceleration and braking wastes gas and can lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by five percent when driving around the city.

n With that, AAA also suggests people stay focused on the traffic patterns as a way to avoid hitting the brakes every few seconds. If you'll be driving on open freeways and highways, consider using the cruise control feature, as it is another way to maintain a constant speed.

Steve Mazor, manager of the Automotive Research Center for AAA of Southern California, put it this way: "The best way to save gas it to imagine you have a raw egg between your right foot and accelerator pedal and you don't want to break it."

n While it may be tempting to drive to the gas station that sells the cheapest gas, sometimes it can end up wasting more gas (and time). It's always good to know which stations sell the cheap gas, but avoid making an effort to drive across town to save what could end up being a few pennies.

Other options
n Stop-and-go traffic can affect a car's MPG. The AAA suggests that commuters consider leaving to work before the morning commute or avoiding the evening rush hour to make a smoother drive.

n If it's possible, consider using public transportation. While it may take more time, it can end up saving a lot of money, especially for residents who commute out of the Santa Clarita Valley on a daily basis. In order to find out how long a commute on public transportation would take, go for a test run on a weekend or research the destination online.

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