I can sum up my response to the price of gasoline soaring once again in just one word: Aargh!
While waiting for prices to come down again (do you think they ever will?) don't sit around complaining all the while paying through the nose to drive your car.
There are lots of things you can do to increase the number of miles you can squeeze out of each gallon of gas, effectively reducing its cost. Here are a few:
Empty the trunk. The heavier the car, the harder the engine must work to move it around. The harder the engine works, the more fuel it burns. So unload all that other stuff you've been carrying around in the trunk for no good reason (please, leave the spare tire and emergency equipment). It's a trunk, not a mini-storage unit. Unload and you could easily increase your gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
Check tire inflation. Get into the habit of checking tire pressure every time you fill up, but when the tires are cold. The recommended PSI (pounds of pressure per square inch) is written right on the tire itself. Under-inflated tires cause the engine to work harder than necessary; over-inflation causes tires to wear prematurely.
Clean the air filter. One of the main causes of low gas mileage is a dirty air filter. If yours cannot be cleaned, replace it and repeat often. Check with a knowledgeable professional at an auto parts store or your mechanic about how often to clean or replace the air filter on your particular model. This is a task you can probably do yourself.
Lighten the lead foot. Drive as if there is a raw egg positioned right under the gas pedal. Your mission is to accelerate so gently that you do not break the egg. Sudden acceleration and lead foot syndrome is the biggest of all fuel thieves.
Bundle your errands. Instead of making many small trips every day of the week, plan ahead. Run all of your errands at the same time, in one longer trip rather than making many small trips all week long. Once your car is warmed up, it operates more efficiently, which means better gas mileage.
Repair, maintain. Transmission torque converter clutch failure results in poor gasoline mileage, as does transmission slipping, a stuck choke plate and leaking injectors. Wow, that really sounds like I know that I'm talking about, doesn't it?
I'm no auto mechanic, but I've learned from so many of my readers who are that it pays to find a good mechanic you can trust and then trust him.
I've also learned my share of expensive lessons over the years, including the lesson that practicing preventive maintenance means cash in your pocket. First, you don't have to pay for those expensive repairs, but as a bonus you'll get much better gas mileage when everything's working well.
Change the oil religiously every three months or 3,000 miles, and even more often if your car is older and you put many miles on it in short periods of time. Learn how to do this task yourself to save even more.
Increasing your gas mileage by only 10 percent is the equivalent of getting one free fill-up every 10th visit to the filling station. Not bad!
The secret is to redirect that savings to some other use before it gets absorbed into your regular spending.
Mary Hunt's weekly column, "Everyday Cheapskate," can be found at creators.com.