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How to cushion the financial blow of exorbitant gas prices


Any motorist who has recently filled up could be forgiven for wincing in disbelief

DETROIT — Any motorist who’s had to refuel recently could be forgiven for wincing in disbelief.

Fueled in large part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gas prices around the world have skyrocketed.

In the United States, they reached record highs above $4.30 per gallon. That’s 50%, or $1.43 a gallon, more than a year ago.

The average full-size SUV owner spends about $110 more each month on fuel than this time last year, according to Kelley Blue Book. Even owners of compact cars pay an average of $60 more per month.

And if you’re like many people, new and used car prices are so high now that it can be prohibitively expensive to buy another more fuel-efficient vehicle. That’s if you could find one. New and used vehicles are historically rare.

The average used vehicle cost $29,646 last month. The middle nine? $45,596, according to Edmunds.com.

As a rule, comparable electric vehicles are still more expensive than gasoline-powered vehicles, although battery charging is usually much cheaper.

All is not necessarily lost. There are some steps you can take to make an old car, truck, or SUV perform better, go further, and possibly save some money on fuel:

— Make sure there is enough air in the tires. Under-inflated tires create more rolling resistance with the road surface, reducing gas mileage. Inflate your tires to the recommended pressure inside the driver’s side door. Check them periodically with a tire pressure gauge. “Generally, your gas mileage will be affected by about 5% to 10% if you don’t have proper inflation,” said David Bennett, repair systems manager for AAA. But do not inflate too much. This could lead to faster tire wear.

— Maintain your vehicle properly. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for changing oil and other fluids and for replacing air and other filters. Replacing spark plugs at the proper intervals can also help. “The vehicle will operate at peak efficiency” with proper maintenance, Bennett said. It will cost between $219 and $268 for new spark plugs on, say, a 10-year-old Ford F-150 pickup with a 3.7-liter V6, according to Repairpal.com.

— Watch your speed. AAA indicates that fuel economy peaks at around 50 miles per hour on most vehicles, then declines as speed increases. Reducing highway speed from 5 mph (8 kilometers per hour) to 10 mph improves gas mileage by up to 14%.

— Plan your route in advance. Try to minimize backtracking. Multitask on each trip. Avoid rush hour and other peak times.

— Don’t idle too much. An engine burns between a quarter and a half gallon (1.9 liters) of gasoline per hour when idling, but a warm engine only needs about 10 seconds of fuel to restart, according to AAA. So, when it’s safe to do so, turn off your engine if you’ve been stopped for more than a minute. Many new vehicles do this themselves. Bennett says owners shouldn’t disable their new “stop-start” system.

— Hill at the stop lights. Time your trip to keep rolling and avoid unnecessary stops. Cars need to use a lot of fuel to move from a dead stop.

— Refuel with gasoline designated as “Top Tier”. Oil companies put additives in Top Tier gas that reduce carbon deposits. “As you start to build up carbon, the vehicle won’t run as efficiently,” Bennett said. Gasoline brands with additives have stickers on the pumps. They can be found at https://toptiergas.com/licensed-brands/

ABC News

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