Gas Prices Gotcha Down

“Gas-Saving” Products: Fact or Fuelishness?

Gas prices are up, and so is the volume of advertising for “gas-saving” products. When gasoline prices rise, consumers often look for ways to improve fuel efficiency. Although there are practical steps you can take to increase gas mileage, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns you to be wary of any gas-saving claims for automotive devices or oil and gas additives. Even for the few gas-saving products that have been found to work, the savings have been small.

“Gas-Saving” Advertising Claims

Be skeptical of the following kinds of advertising claims:

  • “This gas-saving product improves fuel economy by 20%.” Claims usually tout savings ranging from 12-25%. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has evaluated or tested more than 100 alleged gas-saving devices and has not found any product that significantly improves gas mileage. In fact, some “gas-saving” products may damage a car’s engine or cause substantial increases in exhaust emissions.
    The gas-saving products on the market fall into clearly defined categories. Although the EPA has not tested or evaluated every product, it has tried to examine at least one product in each category.
  • “After installing your product on my car, I got an extra 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) per gallon (3.8 liters).” Many ads feature glowing testimonials by satisfied customers. Yet, few consumers have the ability or the equipment to test for precise changes in gas mileage after installing a gas-saving product. Many variables affect fuel consumption, including traffic, road and weather conditions, and the car’s condition.
    For example, one consumer sent a letter to a company praising its “gas-saving” product. At the time the product was installed, however, the consumer also had received a complete engine tune-up—a fact not mentioned in the letter. The entire increase in gas mileage attributed to the “gas-saving” product may well have been the result of the tune-up alone. From the ad, other consumers could not have known that.
  • “This gas-saving device is approved by the federal government.” No government agency endorses gas-saving products for cars. The most that can be claimed in advertising is that the EPA has reached certain conclusions about possible gas savings by testing the product or by evaluating the manufacturer’s own test data. If the seller claims that its product has been evaluated by the EPA, ask for a copy of the EPA report, or check the EPA website for information. In some instances, false claims of EPA testing or approval have been made.

Product Complaints and Refunds

If you’re dissatisfied with a gas-saving product, contact the manufacturer and ask for a refund. Most companies offer money-back guarantees. Contact the company, even if the guarantee period has expired.

If you’re not satisfied with the company’s response, contact your local or state consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Shifting Gears: Real Money-Saving Steps

There are numerous no- or low-cost steps you can take to combat rising gas prices. The most important place to start is at the gas pump; buy only the octane level gas you need. All gas pumps must post the octane rating of the gas under the FTC’s Fuel Rating Rule. Remember, the higher the octane, the higher the price. Check your owner’s manual to determine the right octane level for your car.

Here are some additional tips from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help you get better gas mileage:

Drive more efficiently.

  • Stay within posted speed limits. The faster you drive, the more fuel you use.
  • Use overdrive gears. Overdrive gears improve the fuel economy of your car during highway driving. Your car’s engine speed decreases when you use overdrive. This reduces both fuel consumption and engine wear.
  • Use cruise control. Using cruise control on highway trips can help you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, reduce your fuel consumption.
  • Anticipate driving situations. If you anticipate traffic conditions and don’t tailgate, you can avoid unnecessary braking and acceleration, and improve your fuel economy. In city driving, much of the energy needed to power your car goes to acceleration. Go easy on the gas pedal and brakes. “Jack-rabbit” starts and sudden stops are wasteful.
  • Avoid unnecessary idling. Turn off the engine if you anticipate a lengthy wait. No matter how efficient your car is, unnecessary idling wastes fuel, costs you money and pollutes the air.
  • Combine errands. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
  • Remove excess weight from the trunk. Avoid carrying unneeded items, especially heavy ones, which can reduce a typical car’s fuel economy.

Maintain your car.

  • Keep your engine tuned. Studies have shown that a poorly tuned engine can increase fuel consumption depending on a car’s condition. Follow the recommended maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual; you’ll save fuel and your car will run better and last longer.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned. Car manufacturers must place a label in the car stating the correct tire pressure. The label usually is on the edge of the door or door jamb, in the glove box, or on the inside of the gas cap cover. If the label lists a psi (pounds per square inch) range, use the higher number to maximize your fuel efficiency. Underinflated tires cause fuel consumption to increase by 6%.
  • Change your oil. Clean oil reduces wear caused by friction between moving parts and removes harmful substances from the engine. Change your oil as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
  • Check and replace air filters regularly. Your car’s air filter keeps impurities in the air from damaging internal engine components. Not only will replacing a dirty air filter improve your fuel economy, it also will protect your engine. Clogged filters can cause an increase in fuel consumption.

Consider buying a fuel-efficient vehicle.

Deciding which vehicle to buy may be the most important fuel economy decision you make. The difference between a car that gets 20 mpg (miles per gallon) and one that gets 30 mpg can make a lot of difference! Visit http://www.fueleconomy.gov/ for more information. You’ll find gas mileage estimates and other data from EPA for 1985-2007 model year cars.

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