Better gas mileages just a few tips away

Published 3:28 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2007

By Staff
High gas prices and the strain they put on our budget is something we have all had to learn to deal with lately. Here are some tips that may help you to get better mileage from your car or truck:
Use the Octane Level You Need. Your owner's manual tells you the recommended octane level [regular (usually 87 octane), mid grade (usually 89 octane), and premium (usually 92 or 93 octane)] for your car. For most cars, that's regular octane. Unless your engine is knocking, buying a higher octane than your car needs is pouring money down the drain.
Beware of &#8220Gas-Saving” Gadgets. Be skeptical about devices that claim to boost your mileage. EPA has tested over 100 of them-everything from mixture &#8220enhancers” to fuel line magnets-and none offered substantial savings. Some devices may even damage your engine or increase emissions. For more information and a list of tested products, visit the EPA's Consumer Information website.
Drive More Efficiently. Smart drivers know that speeding can cost you at the pump. To make the most of your gas dollar:
Stay within posted speed limits. Gas mileage decreases at speeds above 60 miles per hour.
Improve your mileage up to 5 percent by avoiding quick starts and stops. Anticipate traffic conditions and drive gently.
Avoid unnecessary idling. It wastes fuel, costs you money, and pollutes the air. Turn off the engine if you anticipate a wait.
Combine errands. Several short trips can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance.
Use overdrive gears and cruise control when appropriate. They improve highway fuel economy.
Remove items from your trunk. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce fuel economy by up to 2 percent.
Don't pack items on top of your car unless you have to. The wind resistance of a loaded roof rack can reduce fuel economy by 5 percent.
Maintain Your Car
Keep your engine tuned according to your owner's manual to increase gas mileage by an average of 4 percent.
Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned to increase gas mileage up to 3 percent.
Change your oil according to the schedule in your owner's manual and use the manufacturer's recommended grade. Motor oil that says &#8220Energy Conserving” on the label contains friction-reducing additives that can improve fuel economy.
Replace air filters regularly. Clogged filters can reduce gas mileage up to 10 percent. Source: Federal Trade Commission
Static Electricity at the Gas Pump Can Spark a Fire
Signs on gas pumps warning about the dangers of static electricity while refueling your car are not a gimmick. Static electricity can spark a fire or explosion so be careful and heed the warnings.
Static electricity is an electric charge caused by an imbalance of electrons on the surface of a material. It is usually caused by the contact and separation of materials. The area of contact, the speed of the separation, relative humidity and other factors determine the amount of charge created. One example of this is a person walking across a carpeted floor. &#8220Static electricity is generated as the shoe soles contact and separate from the carpet.
Once vapors ignite, the fire will continue until the fuel supply is shut off. In most cases, damage and injuries are minor, but serious personal injury and major property damage may occur when the fuel supply from the dispenser is not stopped.
In most cases, when people pull into a gas station to refuel a vehicle, they open the car door, slide out of the seat, open the fuel pipe cover of the vehicle, touch the nozzle on the gas pump, and perhaps touch the pump to use a credit card-all before they insert the nozzle into the fill pipe. Any static charge that was picked up in the car is dissipated several times.
A new static charge can be picked up if you get back into the car after the refueling has started. The synthetic material of the car seats and clothing add to the possibility of picking up a static charge. If you don't touch metal before returning to the nozzle and fuel pipe, that static charge can be transferred when you touch the nozzle, thus creating the potential for a flash fire.
According to the Petroleum Equipment Institute there are three causes of static electricity fires at gas pumps: 50 percent are caused when a person returns to a vehicle during refueling and doesn't shut the door or touch other metal when leaving the car to remove the gas pump nozzle from the car's fuel pipe.
Twenty-nine percent are caused when a person unscrews the gas cap.
Twenty-one percent occur for other reasons.
There are several theories about why static fires at gas pumps are increasing. One is the almost universal switch to self-serve pumps, which requires millions of people who are un-familiar with the volatility of gasoline to handle it once or twice a week.
Also, today's vehicles have more electronics-CD players, geopositioning systems, satellite radios, cruise control, on-board diagnostics and electronically controlled fuel injection. Those elements combined with nylon seat covers could create more static.
Other theories include the use of cold weather-formulated fuels that are more volatile, tires made with less carbon and more silica, having fill pipe cover releases inside the vehicles and automobile parts made of dissimilar materials such as plastic and metal.
LaPrade said if people will follow the following safety
guidelines when refueling, they will reduce the chance for sparking a fire:
* Always turn off your vehicle engine while refueling.
* Stay near the vehicle fueling point during the process.
* Never smoke, light matches or use lighters while refueling.
* Don't get back into the vehicle while refueling-even when using the nozzle's automatic hold-open latch. If you must re-enter the vehicle, discharge static electricity build up when you get out by touching the outside metal portion of the vehicle, away from the filling point, before attempting to remove the nozzle.
* Don't overfill or top off your tank. The fuel dispenser will shut off automatically when the tank is full. For more information on safety at the gas pump, go to www.cfs.purdue/extension/gaspump/.
Source: Dr. Jesse LaPrade Extension Environmentals, Specialist-Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

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