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New tests confirm ways to maximize fuel economy on your ride

Gas prices in Utah are among the highest in the nation. According to GasBuddy.com, the average price for a gallon of gas in Utah is $3.21. That's 32 cents above the national average of $2.89 per gallon. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Gas prices in Utah are among the highest in the nation. According to GasBuddy.com, the average price for a gallon of gas in Utah is $3.21. That's 32 cents above the national average of $2.89 per gallon.

With the price at the pump spiking to the highest level in four years, the average family will have to come up with an extra $200 over the next few months just to get from point A to point B. So Get Gephardt went in search of some tips on how we can fight back, so to speak – and we found Mike Quincy.

Quincy is the automotive writer for Consumer Reports where they just got done testing cars and SUVs to see exactly how much simple actions taken by drivers can increase fuel efficiency. Consumer Reports performed its own fuel-economy tests using a precise fuel-flow measuring device spliced into the fuel line.

Here's what they learned and confirmed:

#1 - Slow down.

“Really simple, it's actually slowing down, which is hard for a car guy like me to say,” Quincy said in a Satellite interview from Consumer Reports east coast headquarters. “We found that when you take an average sedan or a small SUV, you go from 55 to 65 miles an hour, you can see a drop of 4 to 8 miles per gallon. But here's the kicker: If you kick it up to 75 miles an hour, you can see fuel efficiency drop 7 miles per gallon. So the faster you go, the more gas you use.”

#2 - Shed extra weight.

“Extra weight will make the engine work a lot harder,” he said. “So basically the bottom line is you've got to take the junk out of your trunk and make your car lighter and get better gas mileage.”

#3 - Lose the ski/bike rack

“Oh, it has a huge impact,” he said. “When we tested a Honda Accord, steady at 65 mph, it returned about 42 miles per gallon which is really pretty good. However if you have a roof rack on it, lets say, you put a couple bikes on this roof rack, you get your number dropping from 42 miles per gallon all the way down to 27 miles per gallon. That's nothing to sneeze at. That's a whopping 15 miles per gallon difference. So if you're carrying stuff on your roof, you're definitely going to have a negative overall impact on your fuel economy.”

#4 - Fill those tires

“It's really easy. Get a good tire pressure gauge, go out in the morning when the tires are cold, make sure your tires are at the proper PSI,” he said. “There's a little placard there usually in the driver's door where the manufacturer puts on the recommended tire inflation pressure. If your tires are underinflated, you're going to have increased rolling resistance on the tires. You're going to have uneven wear on the tires and get worse fuel economy.”

One of the things our dads all told us was turn off the air conditioner, and Quincy confirmed, that does make a small difference but, he says, not enough of one to make it worth suffering in our high-desert heat.

“When you're running your car’s AC, you are not going to maximize fuel economy, so I get where our dads were coming from. But the point here isn't necessarily about fuel economy as much as keeping the driver happy and comfortable. If you have the windows down, you're going to get some wind buffeting, which in and of itself isn't really going to hurt your fuel economy all that much, but it's going to make the cabin noisier. It's going to be all this turbulence going on and that's going to add to driver fatigue. So really, Consumer Reports advises: run the AC. Put the windows up. Keep cool. Keep comfortable.”

So why are gas prices in Utah so high compared to other places in the country? Get Gephardt reached out to Gas Buddy’s head of petroleum analysis Patrick DeHaan who stated that, in Utah we are on a kind of “petroleum island.” There aren't a lot of pipelines into or out of Utah, DeHaan says. Utah mostly refines its own gas.

The result, DeHaan said, is that when gas prices spike up or down in other states, Utah tends to lag a few weeks behind. For example, prices are down this week on the east coast but still high in Utah.


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