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Tips on making the most of your gas money

As a mechanic takes a look at a customer's automobile, the prices of gasoline can be seen in this downtown Washington gas station. What can we do to help improve our car's fuel efficiency in days of spiking gas prices?

Check your tire pressure

Host Jeremy Hobson's tire pressure was at 40 lbs, which Fleischaker said was dead on.

Drive at the right speed

It's all about fuel economy when gas prices keep ticking up. Fleischaker says that the absolute ideal conditions would be 55 mph on the highway for ten miles without touching the breaks -- but she admits that kind of ideal rarely happens in real life.

Check the grade

Fleischaker recommends 91 octane for everyone, because it is more filtered, making it burn cleaner and more efficiently. You could actually end up saving money by investing in the higher grade gas.

Clean the air filter

A blocked up air filter could mean 25 percent lower fuel efficiency for your car.

Keep your oil updated

Fleischaker emphasizes the importance of checking your oil, which helps keep the heat level in your car down, improving fuel economy.

Empty your trunk

The average car is carting around 200 extra pounds in the trunk. Cleaning it out and keeping the junk at home can keep your wallet a little happier.

Wash and wax your car

One word: aerodynamics.

Jeremy Hobson: Listen up drivers, because we're about to save you some money. The national average for a gallon of gas today is $3.81. It's even worse here in Los Angeles. So I went over to California Automotive in the valley the other day to get some gas-saving tips from the owner, Rebekah Fleischaker. She started by checking the air in my tires to make sure they were properly inflated.

Rebekah Fleischaker: So, we have this little tool and we’re going to check it, and it’s telling us that you have 40 pounds of pressure. So 40 for this tire, I think is very good.

Hobson: So I’m in good shape?

Fleischaker: You’re perfect. You’re perfect.

Hobson: What about driving? How fast should you be driving to get the best fuel economy?

Fleischaker: Well, it’s just not going to happen. What you want to do is 55 miles an hour on the freeway for 10 miles without stomping on your brakes -- that’s fantastic.

Hobson: I have to admit, I do tend to drive faster than 55 on the freeway.

Fleischaker: And most of us do.

Hobson: Now when we’re filling up our car with gas, we have a choice, we have the 87 -- the low end; the mid grade; and then the high end -- the 91. What’s the difference?

Fleischaker: My opinion is, everyone should use 91 octane but, because it’s more filtered, not because of the octane. But typically, super unleaded has more filtering and so we have less particulate matter. It burns much cleaner, cooler, much more efficiently.

Hobson: So you’re saying, even if you don’t have to use that in your car, you should buy the expensive gas to save money in the long run?

Fleischaker: It’s just more efficient, the way that it actually works when it’s inside the vehicle.

Hobson: Okay so use more expensive gas, drive 55 miles per hour, make sure your tires are properly filled up with air...

Fleischaker: That’s correct.

Hobson: What else?

Fleischaker: A really big thing that you can do -- and you really should start at -- is making sure, number one, the air filter is clean. If the air filter’s plugged up, you can get as much as 25 percent lower efficiency because it can’t bring the air in properly so your air fuel mixture will be off, you’ll be burning more fuel.

Number two, if the oil level is correct and clean, that is fantastic because heat is the major factor inside an engine as to how efficient you can be.

Another big thing is, if you have a whole bunch of stuff in your trunk, it really is a vehicle that’s moving, it’s not a closet. So if you can take out everything -- do this: go home, take out everything in your trunk and put it on a scale. I’d lay money that you’d have at least 30 to 40 pounds but the average is 200 pounds worth of extra stuff in your trunk. That’s a whole other human body that you’re carrying around that you don’t need to.

Hobson: So maybe you don’t need to keep the kids’ sleds in the car and stuff like that.

Fleischaker: No skateboards, no, unless you’re going there. If you're going there to use it, great -- then put it back in your garage.

Hobson: Now I spend probably I would say $50 every 10 days filling up my tank with gas. How much do you think I would save if I were to do all the things that you said?

Fleischaker: Well if you added up the percentages: wash the car -- 2 percent more efficiency; air pressure -- 2 percent more efficiency; the air filters -- those plug up to 25 percent; having the oil clean -- up to 15 percent -- you’re already at 40 percent.

Hobson: Rebekah Fleischaker, owner of California Automotive. Thanks for all the tips you’ve given us today.

Fleischaker: Thank you, thank you for having me, I appreciate it.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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