How to Improve Your Fuel Economy

You know gas prices are rising out of control when you are debating which button to press before you fill your tank up at the pump. With gas prices ballooning to more than four dollars a gallon, some of you with those large SUVs have been paying more than $100 to fill up your car. It’s becoming more and more important to the bottom line of your finances to manage how much you drive; otherwise it could cost you dearly within your budget. You might also be able to take small measures every month to reduce the impact of these rising gas prices and improve your overall fuel economy by paying attention to what your car tells you.

Here are few smart money move tips you can use each month:

Heed Warning Signs

Heed Warning Signs in Your Car Like the Check Engine LightCarMD research shows that at least 10% of motorists have a “check engine” light on right now, and half have ignored the light for over three months (source: Dashboard warning lights alert drivers to problems that affect their car’s emissions output, reduce fuel economy, and ultimately cause mechanical damage.

While it may seem like your vehicle is driving just fine, it’s often guzzling extra gasoline. For example, the number one most common cause for “check engine” repairs is a faulty oxygen sensor. The O2 sensor measures the amount of unburned oxygen in the exhaust and tells a car’s computer when there is either too much, or not enough fuel compared with oxygen for ideal operation. It costs less than $250 to fix, but can lead to as much as a 40% reduction in gas mileage if ignored—that’s more than $900 extra per year in fuel costs.

An Ounce of Prevention

Save Money by Scheduling Regular Auto Maintenance AppointmentsMany drivers admit to stretching their dollars by extending time between schedule maintenance appointments. In this case a penny saved may result in many hundreds of dollars spent in extra fuel costs and repairs.

Air filters are a good example of how an ounce of prevention can save you money. You can inspect the filter yourself, shake out the dirt or vacuum it and re-use it, or opt to spend the $25 or so for a new one. Ignore a dirty air filter for too long and it can result in the need to replace a mass air flow sensor (MAF). The number five most common car repair, according to the CarMD® Vehicle Health Index™, a MAF can cause a 10-20% reduction in fuel economy, costing an extra $250-$450 at the pump each year, and eventually resulting in the need to replace a much more expensive catalytic converter.

Lose Weight

Lose Weight in Your Car to Save FuelAre you driving around with extra “junk in your trunk” or truck bed? By removing an extra 100 pounds of clutter from your vehicle, you can improve your gas mileage by several percentage points. A bucket of baseballs weighs about 25 lbs., snow chains weigh at least 10 lbs., and a set of golf clubs can weigh anywhere from 20 to 50 lbs.

Avoid Idling

Avoid Idling In Your CarAttention carpool moms, dads and older siblings. Idling for over 10 seconds uses more gas and causes more pollution than restarting your engine. While it’s not recommended to turn off your vehicle at a stoplight or while moving through a pickup line at the local fast food drive-thru or school, it is a good idea to pull into an approved parking spot and turn off the engine whenever you expect your wait to be more than a couple minutes.

Keep Your Tires Maintained

Keep Your Car Tires MaintainedEnsuring proper tire maintenance, tread and inflation can increase gas mileage by about 10%. Changes in season or major temperature swings are a good time to double check your tire pressure, even if you have a tire pressure monitoring system on your vehicle. It’s best to set them first thing in the morning to the high end of the manufacturer’s specifications (usually found on the inside of the driver’s door).

None of us really know whether or not gas prices will actually hit the $5 dollar mark across the country, or we’ll take action to get gas back into the $2-$3 dollar range that we have all been accustomed to over the past decade. If you use a few of these your smart money moves tips, perhaps you’ll save a few bucks by stretching out that money you spend at the pump.

This article was originally written by Ted Jenkin for Your Smart Money Moves on March 28, 2012.

About the Author: Ted Jenkin

Ted Jenkin is a founder and co-CEO of oXYGen Financial, Inc. After a distinguished tenure with American Express, Ted sought to focus his expertise on continuing education and the financial needs of students and recent grads. One of the foremost knowledgeable professionals in his field, Ted specializes in offering excellent financial advice and planning to Gen X and Y clients. For more information and a free consultation, visit oXYGen Financial.

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