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Special Report-

Squeezed at the Pump

May 4, 2006

Albany -- Would you like to cut your fuel bill by more than 30 percent? It's possible, but you may have to change your driving habits.

Edmunds.com, an automotive website, tested some theories on gas usage here's what they found.

Gasoline prices are budget busters. "I spend about $100 a week in gas," said Danny Gilliard.

We can't just stop driving. "Both of my kids are playing ball," said Christy Barwick. "I have one in soccer and one in Tee-ball and we're on the go constantly and it's killing us."

So what can we do? "I don't drive as fast. I slow down," said Demetri Jackson.

That helps. Slowing down, driving the speed limit, especially on road trips, can save you up to 14 percent. In fact, there are several things you can do behind the wheel to get more miles out of that pricy tank of gas.

"Instead of doing 70, I just put it on about 60," said Charles Tallent. "And put  on my cruise, you know, keep the cruise going, keep it down pretty low."

And he's right - using the cruise control can save you between 7 and 14 percent Also, watch out for those jack-rabbit takeoffs from stop signs. And you might be surprised to know that idling makes a big difference. 

If you switch off the engine of your truck when you're not in motion, you save save up to 19 percent.

But the biggest savings behind the wheel can me made if you just chill out. Agressive driving costs you 37 percent more on your fuel bill. Good news, especially with summer coming. Turning off your air conditioner and rolling down your windows will not save you money.

While the A/C compressor does pull power from the engine and waste some gas, the effect appears to be fairly minimal in modern cars. And putting the windows down tends to increase drag on most cars, canceling out any measurable gain from turning the off the A/C.

And tire air pressure? While mechanics say it will conserve fuel, the Edmunds.com test showed no measurable difference in gas mileage. It is a good idea to keep your tires properly inflated, though. They'll last longer. And that's where car maintenance comes in.

"Look at the air filter," says car man Wes Taliaferro of a clogged specimen. Another way to save money on gas - make sure your engine is running efficiently. Anything that affects engine performance, reduces fuel efficiency. "I would do a regular maintenance check at least once a year," he says.

And between checkups, there are things you can do to make sure your car is at peak performance.

  • Make sure your air filter is clean.
  • Use the proper weight oil recommended by your car's manufacturer
  • Check your spark plugs and wires
  • Make sure your coolant system is functioning properly
  • Keep your car aligned.

"Really, just pay attention to the vehicle," says Taliaferro. "Pay attention to your vehicle. If it starts to run rough or something like that, you could have a bad spark plug, could have a bad plug wire , you could have a bad oxygen sensor in in it. Anyone of those things is going to cost you tremendous gas mileage. Nowadays, gas mileage means tremendous amounts of money."

Money we can save if we pay attention to our cars and our driving habits. And if you're headed out on vacation, Edmunds has this advice: pack lightly. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk can cut your gas mileage by up to two percent.

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