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Despite gas prices, get the most per gallon

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

In the wake of Hurricane Ike, gasoline prices have surged to new highs. In Georgia, gas averages more than $4 a gallon, a record. Prices may lower in the coming weeks, but drivers should still try to get the most out of every gallon, says a University of Georgia expert.

Gas now costs a dollar more per gallon than it did this time last year. It costs 40 cents more per gallon than last month, said Michael Rupured, a consumer financial expert with UGA Cooperative Extension.

“The current spike is temporary, but high gas prices are very likely here to stay,” he said. “It's very unlikely that we'll see gas prices below $3 per gallon again. While the current spike is a direct result of (Hurricane) Ike, it did not cause prices to go up everywhere. We can expect that gas prices will return to a more reasonable rate in the near future.”

To get the most miles per gallon, and regardless of high or low prices, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency offers these tips:

Basic maintenance pays off

• Keep the car tuned. A faulty oxygen sensor, for example, can reduce mileage by as much as 40 percent.

• Replace dirty air filters.

• Properly inflate tires. Every 1 psi drop in pressure can lower mileage by .4 percent.

• Use the manufacturer’s recommended motor oil with “Energy Conserving” on its American Petroleum Institute label.

Behind the wheel

• Stop aggressive driving. Speeding, rapid acceleration and braking cuts mileage by up to 33 percent on the highway and by 5 percent in the city.

• Obey the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly above 60 mph.

• Use the overdrive gear if available to reduce engine speed.

• Use cruise control to maintain a steady speed on the highway.

• Pack lightly and avoid putting items on the vehicle’s roof. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk cuts fuel economy by as much as 2 percent.

• Turn the car off when stopped for longer than one minute. Idling gets 0 mpg.

• Combine errands and plan routes. Several short trips taken from cold starts can use twice as much fuel as a multipurpose trip of the same distance with a warm engine.

Riding bikes, walking, telecommuting, using public transportation or car pooling are other ways to save gas and money. “Bike sales are way up, along with fuel-efficient vehicles, including scooters, hybrids and compacts,” Rupured said.

(April Sorrow is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(April R. Sorrow is a science writer with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.)

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