Winsett: Gimmicks don't really improve gas mileage

Winsett: Gimmicks don't really improve gas mileage

April 22nd, 2011 By Jim Winsett in Business Around the Region

Q: With rising gas prices, I see devices advertised to help motorists save gas. Are these gimmicks or the real thing?

A: You are correct, gas-savings gimmicks are in the marketplace. As gas prices continue to climb, some businesses are seeking opportunities to make money off of commuters by selling fuel-boosting additives or offering engine modifications to help them conserve fuel.

BBB advises consumers to stay away from "gas-saving" products and services that sound "too good to be true."

Over the past decade, the EPA has tested more than 100 gas-saving devices and has not identified any that significantly improve gas mileage and some could eventually cause engine damage. Consumers are being inundated with ads and emails that offer better fuel efficiency.

BBB recommends being particularly skeptical if advertisements claim:

• Federal endorsement. While the EPA does evaluate the legitimacy of claims made by companies that produce gas savers, no federal agency actually endorses gas-saving devices or additives.

• Glowing consumer testimonials. Marketing materials or websites for gas savers often contain consumer testimony on the increased fuel efficiency they experienced with the device or additive, but these are often works of fiction devised by the company.

• Outstanding, too-good-to-be-true results. Consumers should be wary of big promises for big savings. If a gas-saving product really could increase mileage by as much as 40 percent with little effort or money, it is highly unlikely the inventor needs to peddle the product through spam e-mails or tacky Web sites.

The vast majority of gas-conserving products are not viable solutions for squeezing mileage out of vehicles, but here are some tips drivers can take to increase fuel efficiency and get the most out of their gas tank:

• Stay within the speed limit. Gas mileage tends to decline rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.

• Avoid "jackrabbit" starts and stops. Drivers can improve gas mileage around town if they avoid jerky starts and stops. This means accelerating slowly when starting from a dead stop and avoiding pushing the pedal down more than one-quarter of the way.

• Air conditioning or windows? Using the air conditioner at lower speeds reduces fuel efficiency. But at higher speeds, open windows create significantly more drag than the air conditioner and can reduce gas mileage.

• Remove excess weight from the trunk. An extra 100 pounds can reduce a typical car's fuel economy by up to 2 percent.

• Keep the car properly maintained. The engine should be tuned, tires inflated and aligned, the oil changed on schedule and the air filters should be checked and replaced regularly.

Before buying any gas-saving device or additive, BBB recommends that consumers check out the company's reliability report free online at www.bbb.org. For more money-saving advice from BBB for consumers, go to www.bbb.org .

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@timesfreepress.com.