by Barbara Carrow

This nation is ignoring an easy way to save a third on gasoline. The way we drive has a big impact on gas mileage and can easily turn a somewhat average 22 mpg into a respectable 30. Here are some recommendations for saving gas:

Coast

See a stop sign ahead? Coast as far as you can, and then brake gently. Traveling down a hill? Again, try coasting. The reasoning is simple. Accelerating uses gas and not accelerating saves gas.

Slow Down

Take your time. Following the 80-mph crowd on the interstate may be tempting. The U.S. Department of Energy says to expect a rapid decrease in mileage at speeds over 60 mph. Use cruise control on the open road to cut down on speed changes and to keep your speedometer from creeping upward.

Around town, driving with a light foot will pay big dividends. One expert suggests driving as if you had a hard-boiled egg under your right foot. Another recommends that you not press your gas pedal down more than an inch unless you have to. Accelerate slowly from green lights. And remember that racing to a red light and letting your car idle while you wait for the light to turn makes no sense.

Avoid hills if possible. If you can’t avoid them, don’t try to climb one at record speed. Maintaining your speed on hills (even dropping down in speed) is perfectly acceptable.

Don’t Idle

Staying in one place is murderous for your mpg. Avoid rush-hour traffic whenever possible. And if you’re waiting for more than two minutes for the kids to get out of school, shut off the engine.

The no-idling rule extends to cold-weather warm-ups. You only need to warm up your car when it’s below freezing. Even then, 30 seconds (or a minute if the weather’s really cold) will do the trick.

It All Adds Up

Experts offer other suggestions that can help stretch a tank of gas.

- Remove cargo racks. They add to wind resistance.

- Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your car. According to the Department of Energy, an extra 100 pounds can reduce your mpg up to two percent. Smaller vehicles are affected more than larger ones due to the ratio of the extra weight to the car’s weight.

- On the highway, opt for air conditioning if you’re traveling over 40 mph. At higher speeds, open windows create aerodynamic drag.

- Maintain your vehicle properly to burn less fuel. That includes keeping your engine tuned, tires inflated properly and oil changed.

- Use overdrive gears when appropriate. Your engine speed will go down, which saves gas.

- Unless your owner’s manual tells you to use premium unleaded gas, don’t waste your money buying it. There’s no need to pay for it if your engine is designed for regular gas.

- Fill up when it’s cool. Pumps dispense gas by volume, but a car’s engine uses it by weight. Gas is denser when it’s colder. The colder the weather, the more gas you get for the same money.

Try these tips, and you’ll be groaning less about the high cost of fuel and saving more on gas. No coupon required.

Barbara Carrow is a contributor to The Dollar Stretcher; a great resource for”Frugal Living Tools”. The site offers articles on a variety of topics ranging from How to Buy a Used Car to buying school supplies to working after retirement.

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