Roller coaster gas prices, tips to save at pump

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Gas prices throughout the country have been a roller coaster ride, with more ups than downs, but there are several tips that can help save motorists some money at the pump.

According to AAA Hoosier Motor Club, the national average for regular unleaded gas last month was $3.51 per gallon. That is 17 cents higher than in February this year, but the lowest price for the month of March since 2010. March prices averaged $3.70 per gallon in 2013, $3.83 per gallon in 2012, $3.53 per gallon in 2011 and $2.78 per gallon in 2010.

The current national average sits at $3.56, which is eight cents less than what that average was one year ago. The statewide average for Indiana is currently $3.70, which is a four cent increase from last year.

Greg Seiter, public affairs manager for AAA Hoosier Motor Club, told News 18 in a press release that demand for gas increases during the spring as days get longer and people drive more.

“Spring is generally the most frustrating time of the year as far as gas prices go,” said Seiter. “In previous years, gas price increases have been frequent from February through April, mostly due to refineries temporarily cutting back on production in order to conduct seasonal maintenance before transitioning to summer blend fuels, which are used to combat air pollution.

Drivers should not expect April to be any better. According to AAA, gas prices have increased in April three out of the previous five years.

Here are several tips, provided by AAA, that can help save some pennies at the pump.

•  Change your motor oil as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

•  Maintain recommended tire pressure. Low pressure reduces fuel economy and can damage tires.

•  Check and replace air filters. Clogged filters reduce fuel economy and increase exhaust emissions.

•  Don’t use premium fuel if your car doesn’t require it.

•  Make certain your gas cap fits properly.

•  Follow the recommended engine maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual to ensure optimal engine performance and to conserve fuel.

•  Don’t use your trunk for storage. A vehicle weighed down with heavy items can increase fuel consumption by 1 or 2 percent.

•  Travel light. A loaded roof rack can decrease fuel economy by 5 percent.

•  Avoid the practice of warming up your engine for prolonged periods of time before driving. Doing so unnecessarily wastes fuel.

•  Accelerate gradually. Avoid jackrabbit starts.

•  Anticipate your stops. When approaching a red light, let your foot off the gas as early as possible.

•  Slow down. As you drive faster, aerodynamic drag increases. By driving 60 mph instead of 70 mph during your 20-mile highway commute, you’ll save approximately 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day work week.

•  Take advantage of cruise control features to help you maintain a constant speed when traveling on highways.

•  Use your overdrive gears during highway driving. This decreases your car’s engine speed, reducing fuel consumption and engine wear.

•  Keep windows closed when traveling at highway speeds. Open windows cause air drag and can reduce gas mileage by 10 percent.

•  Don’t start and stop your engine unless you need to. Idling for one minute consumes gas equivalent to the amount used to start an engine.

•  Automatic transmissions should be allowed to cool down when a car is idling in a stopped position at a railroad crossing or at a long stop light. In these situations, a vehicle’s gear should be in neutral.

•  Avoid “revving” the engine, especially just before turning it off. Doing so wastes fuel and wears out cylinders.

•  Run errands with a plan. Try to make one trip instead of three.

•  Take advantage of carpools or ride-share programs.

•  Shop around for the best price. Gas prices can vary tremendously.

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