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Driving Tips to Save Gas Without Losing Your Cool

The heat is on, and you’re probably driving more this season to make multiple visits to the lake or beach, head to a family reunion or enjoy a well-deserved vacation. The following driving tips to save gas will help you get to all of your summer destinations while enjoying a cool cabin environment.

1. Consider Opening the Windows

Should you have your windows rolled up and the air conditioner on, or is it better to roll the windows down to save fuel? The first choice definitely makes for a refreshing cabin on a humid day. The second choice means relying on natural air to keep things relatively cool.

For maximum fuel efficiency, the second choice is better, at least according to Discovery‘s MythBusters, who performed a test with identical SUVs, each filled with exactly five gallons of gasoline. The SUV with the A/C on and cranked to high ran out of fuel well before the SUV with the windows down, proving that the most fuel-efficient way to drive is with the A/C off and the windows open.

But should efficiency come at the expense of comfort? No way! Especially if polluted air, noise, messy hair and a hot sun are concerns. Fortunately, there are other ways to save fuel, easily offsetting the cost of running the A/C.

dog in car window 2. Obey Speed Limits

There are many reasons to obey the speed limit, including to avoid a traffic citation — and save on fuel. The U.S. Department of Energy says that for every 5 mph traveled above 50 mph, it’s like paying an extra 16 cents per gallon. It will end up costing you 14 percent more in fuel efficiency if you go 60 mph instead of 50.

3. Lose the Lead Foot

Jack-rabbit starts, speeding and heavy braking consumes a lot of fuel — anywhere from 10 percent to 40 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Such heavy-footed (and -handed) driving can wear out parts faster, too, including your brakes.

4. Haul Cargo on Top Less Often

For some, packing items in a car carrier and placing it on top of the roof is the only way to bring everything needed. However, car carriers cause a lot of drag on vehicles. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that they can reduce fuel economy by 2 percent to 25 percent, depending on whether you’re driving in the city, on the highway or on an interstate. You can improve fuel economy by removing the carrier as soon as it’s no longer needed.

5. Manage Your Weight

Not your personal weight, of course! Instead, don’t overpack your car. For every 100-pound reduction of payload (cargo and people), you can save 1 percent on fuel economy, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

6. Activate Cruise Control

If you have cruise control, use it — except if the roads are slick. In that case, it’s best not to use it in order to avoid hydroplaning. Cruise control helps you maintain a steady speed, and that means you’ll save fuel.

7. Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated

Under-inflated tires add resistance, causing cars to work harder and reducing fuel economy, according to the New York Times. There’s also a safety element to consider, as under-inflated tires affect steering and handling, wear out faster and may suddenly fail.

You can keep your car cooler while parked, too, by using a windshield sunshade. Not only does it reduce heat, but it also protects your dashboard.

The best news here is that you don’t need to drive around this summer with the windows rolled down, feeling worse for it. By employing these fuel-saving strategies, you can run the A/C guilt-free.

Check out all the fuel & emissions parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on driving tips to save gas, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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Matthew C. Keegan

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