Barak Obama was all over the news recently, mocked by his opposition for saying we can conserve fuel by simply inflating our tires. Made for a great sound bite for the 24-hour news stations, but the thing is, he's right. According to experts, under-inflated tires can reduce your gas mileage anywhere from 3 to 15 percent.
So what else can you do to help lessen your gas consumption? I spoke with the experts at the NASCAR Technical Institute and Traffic.com, two groups that know a little something about fuel management. Here are their top tips for squeezing out more miles from every gallon.
1 - Check Your Tires
Tire pressure changes with changing temperatures, so it's important to check the pressure after all weather changes. An under-inflated tire not only reduces the life of the tire, but can cause your gas mileage to plummet by as much as 15 percent. (And they recommend rotating tires roughly every 5,000-10,000 miles to extend the tread life. With or without a pit crew.)
2 - Change the Air Filter
Dust and other impurities getting into the combustion chambers of your engine's cylinders results in wasted gas and weaker engine performance. Replacing a clogged filter can improve mileage by as much as 10 percent, which translates into more money in your pocket every gallon. Change the air filter every six months, more often if you live in a dusty location.
3 - Lighten Your Load
For every 100 pounds of extra weight, your mileage goes down by two percent. Take all that unnecessary junk out of the trunk, and while you're back there, check the air pressure on the spare.
4 - Check Your Spark Plugs
Spark plugs fire as many as 3 million times every 1,000 miles. That's a lot of heat and wear and tear. Dirty spark plugs cause misfiring, which wastes fuel by as much as 30 percent.
5 - Make Sure Your Cap is Tight
According to NASCAR's Tech Institute, nearly 20 percent of vehicles have gas caps that are damaged, loose or missing altogether, allowing that high-priced octane to vaporize, wasting some 147 million gallons of gas every year.
6 - Don't Be Idle
Obviously, sitting in bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic is a tremendous waste of fuel. Traffic.com recommends using the real-time traffic function available on many newer GPS systems to avoid backups and find clear routes, and updating the system's maps to find the quickest way to your destination.