As gasoline prices climb, energy and car experts have simple advice for motorists: Slow down.
With the national average of $3.73 for a gallon of gas, drivers are changing their consumption habits, taking more public transportation and curbing their time on the road, said Automobile Club of Southern California experts.
For motorists who can't avoid filling up their tanks, however, simple solutions such as altering driving behaviors and doing regular car maintenance can help lower gas spending.
"Everyone should always pay attention when they drive, but when you become a more conscious driver, you can save on gas, too," AAA spokeswoman Marie Montgomery said. "The 'lead foots' out there need to not only slow down for safety, but it just makes sense for fuel economy."
Every 5 mph driven faster than 60 mph is like paying an additional 29 cents per gallon for gasoline if the vehicle has an average fuel economy of 22.5 miles per gallon and based on fuel costs at $3.65 per gallon, according to U.S. Department of Energy officials.
Removing excess weight from vehicles also can help improve gas mileage. Fuel economy decreases by 1 percent to 2 percent for every 100 pounds carried in a vehicle, Montgomery said.
Keeping tires properly inflated helps save at least 15 cents per gallon and provides a total miles per gallon increase of 3.3 percent, according to the website http://fueleconomy.gov, which is run by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The proper tire pressure recommendation is usually found on a sticker on the vehicle's driver's side door or in the owner's manual.
Overall car maintenance is also important for fuel efficiency.
A car's oxygen sensor, which is mounted in the exhaust system, sends information to the car's computer about how much oxygen and fuel are burned during combustion. A faulty oxygen sensor could decrease fuel economy by 40 percent, Geisler said.
Air-flow sensors, which monitor the amount of air delivered to the engine, also would cause a significant drop in fuel economy if not properly functioning, said Barry Hoyland, owner of Barry's Auto Service in Camarillo, Calif.
"A lot of these problems happen over time and you don't even realize why it's happening," said Hoyland, who also trains other professional technicians.
While replacing an air filter might not improve fuel economy in more modern cars, it can improve acceleration time by 6 percent to 11 percent, according to a Department of Energy study.
However, replacing a clogged air filter in an older vehicle with a carbeurated engine could improve fuel economy by 2 percent to 6 percent.
Using the recommended grade of motor oil and changing it every 3,000 to 5,000 miles could save gasoline by 1 percent to 2 percent.
Using a higher-octane gasoline to increase fuel economy is a common misconception, Hoyland said.
"It's a myth," he said. "Just use the octane recommended for your vehicle. That would save you even more money."
(Contact Marjorie Hernandez of the Ventura County Star in California at MHernandez(at)vcstar.com