As consumers prepare for summer vacations, day trips and other excursions, the Department of Consumer Protection is offering advice for saving on gasoline expenses.
“With the summer travel season heating up, we want to remind consumers that there are a number of ways they can trim gasoline costs,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said. “While global fuel markets and distribution networks determine fuel prices, drivers can take some steps to save on gasoline this summer.”
1. Get a tune-up. A well maintained car will use less fuel; a poorly tuned engine increases your fuel consumption by up to 20 percent. Make sure your transmission fluid is at the right level too.
• Change the oil in your car according to the manufacturer’s instructions, or roughly every 3,500 miles. Be sure to use the right grade of oil for your car depending on the season and driving conditions.
• Replace the air and fuel filter in your car. A clogged air filter can reduce mileage by up to 10 percent.
2. Give your tires some attention. Tires affect your miles per gallon. Poorly aligned tires make the engine work harder and burn more fuel. You can tell if your car needs an alignment if there is a pulling on the steering wheel when you are driving. Also, regularly rotate your tires and check them for uneven wear will save in both tires and gas costs.
• Buy a tire gauge and check your car’s tire pressure now and every month. If your tires are low on air, you’re wasting gas and money. The best time to check your tire pressure is when the tires are cool – not right after a long drive. In hot weather, check the pressure during the coolest part of the day. Inflate your tires to the recommended Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) for hot weather.
• By the way, it’s against the law for gas stations in Connecticut to charge you for using their air hose to inflate your tires. The law says that air for tires has to be free. Call us if you experience a problem in this area.
3. Remove unnecessary weight from the car. Tools, topsoil and fertilizer should be in the car only as long as necessary. Roof racks and bike racks create “drag” which increases your fuel costs as well, so when packing for a trip, fit as much of your gear in the trunk as you can.
4. Plan driving routes so you can travel at a constant speed as much as possible. Avoid rush hours when planning your long-distance drives. Take routes that bypass construction zones when possible.
5. Use the Internet to find good gasoline prices. Several sites on the Internet can help you find the cheapest gas in your area. A national site that has links to websites that offer gas prices in Connecticut and other states is www.fueleconomy.gov. Here are more resources:
6. Buy gas in the middle of the week, when prices tend to be a bit lower. Weekends and holidays often see slightly higher fuel prices, so fill up mid-week and save a few cents per gallon.
7. Pay in ways that help you save the most. Many gas stations offer reduced prices for cash purchases. Cash purchases do not include payments by debit card. Because of the electronic nature of the transaction and the fee that the seller must pay to process a debit purchase, per-gallon prices are often charged at credit card rate. If you use credit at the pump, think about getting a gasoline credit card that offers a five or ten percent rebate back on every gasoline purchase.
• Other credit and debit cards provide reward points, coupons or other benefits for your purchase, so you may offset the price of gas with savings somewhere else. To make any credit reward or benefit a “net win” however, you must pay your credit bill on time to avoid finance charges.
8. Look into the values offered by your existing club memberships — some supermarkets offer gas points, and wholesale clubs, automobile clubs, and other organizations offer gas discounts to members.
9. Use the lowest grade of gasoline recommended for your vehicle. For most cars, higher octane gas is a waste of money, and octane has nothing to do with the quality of the gas. Check your manual to see if you can use regular gas. You’ll save plenty at each visit to the pump.
10. Don’t skimp on volume; fill up the tank when you can. Driving on or near “Empty” actually burns more fuel, because your vehicle is struggling to operate. Keep your gas tank at least ½ full.
“A good driving practice that not only saves money, but lives as well, is observing posted speed limits,” Rubenstein said. “Driving at high speed uses up more gas and is a factor in many serious crashes, so taking it slower and steady is good advice for everyone.”
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