Biz Bulletin: Fuel saving ideas that work, and those to be wary about

Biz Bulletin: Fuel saving ideas that work, and those to be wary about

July 26th, 2013 By Jim Winsett in Business Diary

BBB Chief Exective Jim Winsett

Photo by Leigh Shelle Hunt

Q. I have been looking at ways to help the gasoline in my car go further, since the price of gasoline keeps climbing. Does the BBB have tips I can consider to save some money at the pump?

A: In many states across the country, gasoline prices have been heading towards the $4 a gallon mark. Although there are practical steps you can take to increase gas mileage, Better Business Bureau warns consumers to be wary of gas-saving claims that empty your wallet, instead of saving you fuel.

Many websites make unbelievable claims for various after-market automotive devices (fuel-line magnets, air bleed devices and retrofit gadgets) and oil and gasoline additives that supposedly increase gas mileage for automobiles. The Federal Trade Commission found many of these claims to be either false or overly exaggerated.

Summer travelers during vacation should shop around for gas prices. With today's technology, many smartphones have applications specifically for finding the cheapest gas prices in a designated area. Also you may even want to consider getting a credit card that gives cash back bonuses on gas purchases.

Before adding any fuel savings device to your vehicle, check with your auto mechanic. You may end up with a voided manufacturers warranty and serious engine problems by adding after market devices to your engine.

What you spend at the pump is influenced by how you drive and what type of gasoline you use to fill your tank. As we reach the peak of summer travel, here are some tips on what you can do to save fuel consumption:

1) Choose the right octane for your car. Check your owner's manual to find out what octane your car requires. Keep in mind that the higher the octane, the higher the price.

2) Keep your engine tuned. Studies have shown that a poorly tuned engine can increase fuel consumption by as much as 10 to 20 percent depending on a car's condition. Follow the recommended maintenance schedule in your owner's manual; you will save fuel and your car will run better and last longer.

3) Do not let your engine run at idle any longer than necessary. An engine actually warms up faster while driving. With most gasoline engines, it is more efficient to turn off the engine than to idle for any period longer than 30 seconds.

4) Drive more efficiently. Stay within the posted speed limits. The faster you drive the more fuel you use. Set your cruise control on highway trips. This can help maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, reduce your fuel consumption.

5) Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned. Automobile manufacturers must place a label in the car stating the correct tire pressure. If the label lists a psi (pounds per square inch) range, use the higher number to maximize your fuel efficiency.

6) Anticipate the driving condition. Driving smoothly and steadily makes the best use of your fuel. If you can, avoid sudden acceleration or braking.

7) Change your oil and replace air filters regularly. Clean oil reduces wear caused by friction between moving parts and removes harmful substances from the engine. Your air filter keeps impurities in the air from damaging internal engine components.

8) Lose the extra weight. Take out any extra stuff you currently do not need in your car; these include racks for bicycles or luggage. The more the car is weighed down the more gas it will consume.

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 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.