Common Sense Steps to Cut Gas Consumption and Refueling Costs

When you consider how many times in recent months that crude oil prices have set new record highs, it should probably be no surprise that prices at the gas pump are just as volatile. Yet few of us are truly prepared for the little sedan or coupe we used to fill for under $10 suddenly costing us $20 or more instead. If you happen to drive a bigger truck, SUV, or van, the price of gas can really hurt unless you can find ways to cut gas consumption and costs.

With this in mind, understand that there are a number of ways you can improve gas mileage which in turn can shave down some of the cost to gas up the family vehicle. Many of them do not require the cost of a professional mechanic or fancy extras to achieve as much as a 10% cut in gas costs.

Good vehicle maintenance is always an effective way to reduce gas consumption and cost. Just simple measures like keeping your tires properly inflated can make a real difference. Yet you should also follow your owner’s manual recommendations for:

– checking and changing fluids like oil, transmission, brake, and coolant/water
– replacing filters like the air, oil, and fuel filters
– inspecting your battery (some require water – often distilled water only – to the battery cells while others are no maintenance/self-contained)

While you perform this maintenance – or have someone do it for you – inspect hoses and belts. Not only can you save yourself from an expensive vehicle repair, but you can keep yourself from getting stuck in the middle of nowhere without an easy way to get back to civilization. When fuel costs are high, it can be just plain harder to get a lift from a good Samaritan or a normally helpful friend or neighbor. Your vehicle’s fan belt, for example, often shows serious signs of wear long before it fails. By spotting this problem before it fails, you not only cut some fuel costs but spare yourself tow truck and mechanic charges.

But there are even easier fuel consumption reduction efforts you can handle yourself. To start, get rid of all the junk in your trunk, back seat, or other storage areas. Some studies suggest the average driver carries around between 50 and 100 pounds of unnecessary weight – not counting the very important spare tire, jack, and emergency road kit – that costs you each time you fill your car, truck, SUV, or (mini)van.

If you aren’t already doing so, consider the ways in which you can consolidate trips. Try to make your gas money stretch farther by taking care of numerous errands in one trip rather than making multiple trips. For example, when you have a doctor’s appointment in another city or another part of your town, try to think ahead to any other business you might need to conduct in that area.

Also, if you have to run back to the store two or three times a week between major grocery and other essential shopping trips, you aren’t buying effectively. Try to stock up on staples like dairy products and bread rather than use your vehicle to make extra trips during the week aside from stores that are available right on the way home from work or school.

Finally, one of the ways we tend to waste gas most frequently involve the kids. If you have them socked into a rigorous schedule of sports practices, games, study groups, and so on, try to organize car pools so parents can split costs. Also, while kids love trips out to break up their time away from school, this can hurt the family wallet. Encourage your children to help you conserve fuel and let them know that in doing so, they help you afford other things they like even better than trips out.

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