12 ways to save

We can't control high gas prices, but we can control how we buy and burn fuel.
Marie Havenga
Oct 1, 2012
Removing items from your trunk, preplanning a route with a GPS or using smart phone program to find the lowest gas price in the area pumps up the savings in your pocket.   Local mechanics and professional drivers have shared their tips with Tribune readers to help them get the most miles out of their gallons..   Jim Willison, owner of Tri-City Auto Repair, 628 E. Savidge St., Spring Lake:   “The two least expensive and most important things are: make sure you have a clean air filter and check your tire inflation,” Willison said. “If you live on a dirt road, your air filter gets much dirtier. Make sure your tires are round and you're not dragging a half-flat tire around.”   Drivers can find the optimum tire pressure on the driver-side doorjamb sticker. Recommendations are often different for front and rear tires so pay attention — improper pressure could cost about two miles per gallon or more.   Spending $10 to $20 on a new air filter could increase fuel tank range by as much as five miles per gallon, Willison said, adding that regular tune-ups and checkups help, too. A bad oxygen sensor could rob you of three miles per gallon.   “We're coming up on the time of year when everybody warms their car up,” Willison said. “Warming your car up for a couple of minutes is OK – half an hour is not.”   Rich Retherford, Rosebud Taxi driver, Grand Haven:   Retherford's income is tied to his fuel usage so he has a huge stake in saving.   “Every time gas prices go up it costs more out-of-pocket because us drivers pay for our own gas,” he said. “Rates stay the same, so if gas prices go up, we lose money.”   Retherford said he and his fellow cab drivers plan their routes for the shortest and most fuel-efficient journey.   “Google Maps has a free app that I have on my phone,” Retherford said. “It will trip plan for you. Otherwise, you're driving around from one end of town to the next.   “Another thing is I drive a little slower through town so I don't have to stop at every light,” he continued. “If I slow down ahead of time, I can coast along, then I don't have to stop and then accelerate.”   Retherford suggests proper tire pressure, regular oil changes, and transmission and radiator flushes.   “Just your general preventative maintenance will give you better gas mileage,” he said. “I check my tire pressure, my oil and radiator fluid every day. That's about all you can do by yourself anymore.”   Jeff Sawinski, manager of Alles Tire Auto Service, 14964 Cleveland St, Spring Lake:   “The biggest thing is tire pressure,” Sawinski said. “All new cars have sensors in them now. They pretty much tell you when your car has a soft tire.”   Sawinski recommends replacing spark plugs at about 60,000 miles, even though most are now rated for 100,000.   “You want to catch them before they get bad,” he said.   Sawinski also suggests cleaning fuel injectors every 30,000 to 50,000 miles, especially if you use multiple gas stations.   The more economical 87-octane fuel is fine for most cars, he said. High performance vehicles may require the extra boost (and extra cost per gallon).   Sawinski also swears by 55 miles per hour.   “I'll take a back road sometimes instead of getting on the highway just to save gas mileage,” he said. “I stick it at 55 and get a few extra miles per gallon.”   Deb Mulder, office clerk at Krohn's Auto Service, 111 S. Beechtree St.:   Mulder recommends pouring a bottle of fuel injector cleaner in your tank at least every other oil change, keeping tires properly inflated and replacing your fuel filter regularly.   “If it's plugged, gas isn't going to go through very well,” she said. “I use cruise control religiously. It not only saves gas, it stops you from getting a ticket. And don't warm up your car – if you're idling, you're wasting gas.”   Mulder said the pain at the pump has brought in a lot of customers seeking better fuel economy. She thinks high prices have canned consumer cash flow.   “It is killing them,” she said. “I think it has a lot to do with the way the economy is. I think if gas prices were $1 cheaper, people would have more money to spend and the economy would be driven. If I'm spending all my money on gas going back and forth to work, I don't go shopping any more.”

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