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Monday, March 28, 2011

Gas prices got you down? These tips should help

Gas prices got you down? These tips should help

Gasoline prices recently have dropped a few cents. That's the good news.
But with the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in New Jersey still at $3.38, AAA Mid-Atlantic has published a list of gasoline myth busters.
The automobile trade group warns that cash-strapped and stressed-out motorists should be leery of some.
Here are some myths to consider:
■ Boycotting filling stations one day a week will cause oil companies to lower fuel prices.
False. This one makes the rounds via e-mail chains and is the favorite of Facebook users every time pump prices soar. Unless you stop driving altogether, unless everyone stops driving, boycotts are a bust. In 2009, Americans used 137.93 billion gallons of gas, AAA said.
■ Driving the most fuel-efficient car you own will save $4,400 in fuel costs over five years.
True, assuming a car gets 20 mpg and a second car gets 30 mpg and you drive 15,000 miles annually. With a fuel cost of $3.52 a gallon, the U.S. Department of Energy says you will save $4,400 in the next five years.
■ Trading in your gas-guzzling SUV or large sedan for a more fuel-efficient car makes economic sense.
False. It is cheaper to keep her, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. Unless your car is paid off, you are simply accumulating more debt. "About 82 percent of new-car loans today have terms of 60 to 77.9 months," according to J.D. Power and Associates. The average owed at trade-in is $4,221, more than the vehicle is worth.
■ Paying cash at the pump can yield significant discounts.
True. Some stations offer 5 cents off a gallon of gasoline if you pay cash. Why? Credit card fees usually account for 2 percent of the transaction, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.
■ Premium grade gasoline is better than regular gasoline.
Depends. Premium costs about 30 cents per gallon more than regular. But if your vehicle's owner's manual calls for premium, then use it. Not many do, except some high-performance cars. In 1988, 15 percent of the cars sold here required premium. Today, premium gas accounts for only 9 percent of the gas sold.
■ Turning off your vehicle's air conditioning will improve fuel mileage.
False. This one has been a rumor for years. Most cars today are aerodynamic in shape and design. At highway speeds, air conditioning can lower greenhouse output. Rolling down the window will increase the drag on your vehicle, lowering fuel mileage.
■ Overinflating tires or replacing compressed air with nitrogen will improve fuel mileage.
False. Overinflating tires does not increase fuel mileage, AAA says. Tire makers, safety experts and AAA say overinflation results in tires wearing more quickly and having less traction. Using nitrogen - expensive, by the way - will keep tire pressure more stable over the long term but does not improve fuel mileage.
■ "Hypermiling" can improve fuel mileage.
False. The goals of "hypermiling" are positive, such as eliminating aggressive driving and saving energy. Unfortunately, some motorists have taken their desire to improve fuel economy to extremes with techniques that put themselves and other motorists in danger. Some of these include cutting off the engine or putting the transmission in neutral to coast on a roadway, tailgating or drafting tractor trailers, and rolling through stop signs. With the engine off, you have no power steering or power brakes.
■ A vehicle uses more fuel to shut down or restart than idling. When a vehicle is running but not moving, you are getting zero mpg. Also, a warm engine uses minimal fuel to shut down and restart. If you stop for more than a minute, shut off the engine.
Myths aside, there are real ways to save fuel. AutoZone, a large auto parts retailer, has some time-tested tips to help, spokesman Steve Stoll said.
■ Replace worn-out spark plugs, which cause poor fuel economy and engine performance. Most cars today require spark-plug replacement at 100,000 miles, but some manufacturers call for replacement as low as 30,000 miles. According to the national Car Care Council, worn spark plugs can cost you up to 2 miles per gallon in fuel economy.
■ Clean the fuel system. Fuel system deposits can cause rough idling, engine hesitation and a decline in fuel economy. Adding a fuel system cleaner can remove deposits and restore a vehicle's performance. Auto expert and author Ray Bohacz recommends Chevron's Synthetic Fuel System Cleaner and said it really works. Most repair shops also have a fuel injection cleaning machine that thoroughly cleans the fuel injectors by running solvent through them. Cost varies but begins at about $100.
■ Invest in a new gas cap. A faulty cap could cost you more than $57 a year because of evaporation. A locking gas cap is a way to ensure the gas tank is properly sealed and also prevents theft and siphoning.
■ Keep tires properly inflated. Fuel mileage can improve up to 3.3 percent just by checking the air pressure. Your tires will last longer, too, saving you more money.

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