• KISS Tip!: Gas Prices Got You Down? Follow These Tricks To Help You Save

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    With gas prices jumping — and no end in sight to the unrest in the Middle East — it’s probably safe to say that high pump costs are here to stay for a while.

    But that doesn’t mean you should feel helpless every time you pull into the gas station. There are several simple and low-cost tips you can follow immediately to help achieve better fuel economy and save cash.

    1. Check your tires. According to a study by the Rubber Association of Canada, 23 per cent of Canadians are driving around with at least one tire underinflated by 20 per cent. The association estimates that we waste 640 million litres of fuel each year because our tires aren’t properly inflated. Underinflated tires run hotter and have more rolling resistance, using more fuel, while tires with too much air wear unevenly.

    Even if your car has a tire-pressure monitoring system, you should still check the pressure once a month, since your tires can be wasting fuel before they reach the safety threshold measured by the system. For more information, visit BeTireSmart.ca.

    2. Slow down. The faster you go, the more it costs. Cars that get good fuel economy at 100 km/h can chew up gas pretty quickly at 120 km/h, especially a four-cylinder model.

    3. Add a fuel economy app on your iPhone or computer. Such apps can help you track fuel economy as well as remind you of routine maintenance, such as your next oil change or tire rotation. A popular low-cost app, Car Care, is available on iTunes for $2.99. The app lets you calculate fuel economy in seconds, right at the pump, as well as track the performance of different fuel types.

    4. Use your right foot smoothly. A surprising number of drivers, even on a straight stretch of road, will be constantly on and off the throttle — and most don’t even realize they’re doing it. Practise consistent throttle pressure to maintain your speed. You’ll save fuel. And avoid hard jackrabbit starts when taking off from a stop. Accelerate gradually and smoothly instead.

    5. Lose the weight. If you’re hauling unnecessary items — bags of soil that never made it to your garden, for example — take them out of your trunk or cargo area. You’re burning extra fuel hauling them around. If it’s possible, take off your roof racks when you’re not using them, too. But don’t ditch the spare tire and jack in the trunk. You never know when you’re going to run a flat.

    5. Lose the weight. If you’re hauling unnecessary items — bags of soil that never made it to your garden, for example — take them out of your trunk or cargo area. You’re burning extra fuel hauling them around. If it’s possible, take off your roof racks when you’re not using them, too. But don’t ditch the spare tire and jack in the trunk. You never know when you’re going to run a flat.

    6. Watch for traffic slowdowns ahead of you and let off the throttle, rather than jamming on the brakes at the last minute and accelerating back up to speed again.

    7. Drive smart in winter. Idle your car just long enough that the defrosters get the fog off the windshield. Letting it run until it’s warm inside wastes fuel.

    8. Use the right fuel grade. If your car is rated for premium fuel, don’t use regular grade (87 octane). The computer will retard the car’s performance to prevent engine damage and your fuel economy will suffer. If your owner’s manual says premium is only “recommended,” you should be able to use regular fuel. Move back up to a higher grade if you hear knocking or pinging sounds in the engine or if the car performs sluggishly. Conversely, if your car only needs regular-grade fuel, you’re just wasting money by “treating” it to a tank of high-test.

    9. Pay attention to maintenance. Although newer cars can go longer between oil changes, they still need to be serviced periodically. A dirty engine air filter can translate to poorer fuel economy. It should be changed about once a year or every 20,000 km, and a little sooner if you drive a lot on dusty roads. Have your spark plugs replaced at the intervals given in your owner’s manual to keep your engine running at peak efficiency.

    10. Plan your trips. Combine errands so you’re not making unnecessary car trips. If possible, consider alternative transportation, such as carpooling or using public transit. Even one or two trips taken without the car can make a difference.

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