Easy tips for improving gas mileage one step at a time

A gas tax \'\'is well intentioned, but counter-productive,\'\' says Franchot. (AP)

Kristi King, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – There are two big ways to improve gas mileage: maintenance and attitude. Actions behind the wheel and in the garage can waste or save big bucks.

For those who feel the need for speed, ease up. Every extra 5 mph over 60 mph is like paying an additional 29 cents a gallon for fuel, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. The Alliance also recommends using cruise control and the overdrive gear.

When running errands, combining trips does more than cut down the number miles. A car that’s been warmed-up by driving from one place to another functions more efficiently.

Idling wastes gas. It becomes more efficient to turn off the car and restart it after remaining stopped for more than 30 seconds. Jackrabbit starts and hard breaking also are wasteful, the U.S. Department of Energy reports.

Good vehicle maintenance is also important. Properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by 3.3 percent, according to the ASE, which also says tuning up a car that needs it can improve gas mileage by as much as 4 percent. Repairing a serious maintenance problem such as a malfunctioning oxygen sensor can improve mileage by as much as 40 percent.

During oil changes, using the manufacturer-recommend motor oil grade can improve gas mileage another 1 percent to 2 percent.

As for junk in the trunk, like golf clubs or winter sand or salt, every extra 100 pounds of weight can reduce gas mileage by up to 2 percent. On long trips, consider packing everything you can inside your vehicle. The drag of a loaded roof rack can kill gas mileage by 5 percent.

The Alliance to Save energy acknowledges all these savings might seem small individually, but in the long run, every bit counts and can really add up.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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