Make Fewer Trips to the Pump

Filling up at the gas pump has become a draining experience, to say the least. With gasoline prices at their highest levels in years, drivers are beginning to seek ways to improve their autos' fuel efficiency.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to save money at the pump, say automotive experts at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).

SEMA, whose members have been helping people make the most of their vehicles for nearly 40 years, suggests drivers invest a few dollars now to save money in the future and to enjoy their vehicles more.

"It's easy to improve a vehicle's fuel economy and get improved performance at the same time, at any stage in the life of a car," says Chris Horn, SEMA's vice president of consumer affairs. "Simple changes, like snapping on a high-performance air filter and changing to a less-restrictive muffler or exhaust system, help an engine breathe easier, so it produces more power and is more efficient.

"Improving a vehicle's ignition system also can make the engine more efficient, so it needs less fuel and performs better."

Good engine and tire maintenance are also powerful contributors to better gas mileage, explains Horn. The Federal Trade Commission estimates consumers can save several hundred dollars a year on gas just by keeping the vehicle's engine tuned and tires inflated to the proper pressure.

"Pickup truck owners can reap some of the biggest benefits in terms of improved gas mileage," he says.

Air traveling into a pickup's bed runs smack into the tailgate, creating serious resistance. Some people drive around with the tailgate down, but this reduces a truck's utility. A better solution is to replace the tailgate with a specially designed net. Another option is to top off the bed with a truck cap or tonneau cover that will improve aerodynamics substantially and provide more secure storage space.

"Clearly, there are a number of enhancements you can make to your car or truck that will improve the aerodynamics and engine performance," Horn says. "But don't forget the contribution of good personal driving habits."

Driving at a consistent speed is one way to improve gas mileage, so it makes sense to use cruise control. If you don't have it, it's simple to get cruise control installed, SEMA experts recommend.

"Tires are another major contributor to fuel efficiency," adds Horn. "Studies have shown that it's not uncommon for vehicles to have six percent increased fuel consumption due to under-inflated tires. Maintaining proper tire pressure can get you up to 20 more miles from a tank of gas.

"Under-inflated tires also wear more quickly, so it's worthwhile to keep a tire gauge handy and use it. If you're not mechanically inclined, consider permanent, stem-mounted gauges so you can tell at a glance if your tires are low."

Horn says an even better investment is to install a tire monitoring system that will let you know when your tires need air-and when you're at risk of having a blowout. In addition, switching to one of the newer tire designs on the market can improve fuel efficiency.

To learn more about how to improve your vehicle's performance, utility and style, visit, or write SEMA Consumer Affairs at 1575 South Valley Vista Drive, Diamond Bar, CA 91765.

© 2001 - 2007
Privacy Policy & Disclaimer
Women's finance - making smart financial choices
Your source for women's finances & financial advice
Free Budget Club Free Worksheets Forums Blog


Auto Loans
Credit & Debt
Credit Repair
Education Savings
401K Retirement
IRAs Retirement
Mutual Funds
Travel Finances
Health Insurance
Life Insurance
Auto Insurance
Financial Calculators
Kid's Financing
Quiz Time
Free Worksheets
Budget Challenge
Message Boards