- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2001

The more often you take off the cap, the higher your consumption goes, and I'm not talking about the screw-off cap on your favorite beverage (nonalcoholic, I hope, if you are driving anywhere).
The cap I'm referring to is the fuel tank cap, and one of the ways to cut your fuel usage is to increase mileage and thus lower your motor fuel bill.
Pretend that you have a sore foot at work and it hurts if you walk too much. To eliminate that pain, you plan to make every step count and combine the trip to wash up, the visit to the patio and the trip to the cafeteria in one journey.
In a car, you can plan the trip to the grocery, the drugstore, the library and the bank all in one journey, and then come back to relax and watch the game.
According to Tom Mulrane, a fuel specialist manager in STP Research & Development who has studied the flow of gasoline for more than 20 years, there are five basic factors that contribute to efficiency.
Remember that sore foot? Well, it won't hurt as much if you lift it back from the accelerator. In Mr. Mulrane's words, slow down fuel economy decreases rapidly at speeds above 55 miles an hour.
The faster you drive, Mr. Mulrane says, the more aerodynamic drag increases. It also helps to remove bike racks or carriers when they are not being used they can add unnecessary resistance to your vehicle.
Also, use cruise control on the highway, he says, to ensure a consistent speed. I found with any car that cruise control does two things: It keeps a fuel-conserving, consistent speed and keeps the police cars in their little hideaways because you don't accidentally get into higher, more noticeable speeds.
Of course, Mr. Mulrane has to make a pitch for the products his company sells when he notes that deposits on fuel injectors can decrease your vehicle's fuel efficiency by as much as 11 percent. His product is called STP Gas Treatment. An occasional shot of that will tune up a tired injector.
Mr. Mulrane also stresses watching tire pressure, because industry sources find that underinflated tires cut fuel economy by as much as 2 percent for each missing pound of pressure.
Speaking about pounds, not yours but what your car is carrying, Mr. Mulrane advises against carrying a lot of weight on top of the car. But if you do, make sure to use a carrier so that the weight will be evenly distributed.
Also, carry only the basic emergency equipment and items you really need in your trunk. When considering what's in my trunk, I can take out the wheel ramps, but I do need that hydraulic wheeled jack. I will compromise and leave the 648-socket-wrench kit at home.
"You can increase your fuel efficiency by doing simple things to ensure that your car is getting the most out of every tank of gas," Mr. Mulrane said. "You don't need to take a trip closer to home or cancel your summer vacation to save on gas."
Of course, he also supports my contention that buying the lowest-grade gasoline your owner's manual recommends could save you as much as 20 cents per gallon, depending on where you live. "Less than 5 percent of cars on the road today require premium-grade gasoline," Mr. Mulrane said.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, high-octane gasoline does not outperform regular octane in preventing engine deposits from forming or removing them. Gee, I would never disagree with any federal agency, would I? But an occasional full tank of premium and a nice long highway jaunt make almost any engine feel as if it has had an internal massage. What works works.
CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.


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