(ARA) - Just as Americans are gearing up for warm-weather road trips and family vacations, prices at the gas pump are rising. For most people, driving is essential for getting to work, taking kids to school and going out to have some fun, so filling up the tank is a non-negotiable expense. However, costs add up quickly as fuel prices climb higher, taking up more of your budget.
If you want to keep your plans in place and your spending on track, it's important to be smart about fuel consumption. Not everyone can afford to buy a new, ultra-fuel-efficient car, so making adjustments to your existing vehicle - and your driving habits - can help you stretch the dollars you spend at the pump.
* Drive mindfully: If you're used to speeding up fast and braking at the last moment, you need to reconsider how you're operating your vehicle - those habits can drain your gas tank and send you back to the pump more often. Instead, make a conscious effort to accelerate and slow down gradually and use cruise control to maintain a constant speed, all of which will help to use fuel more efficiently. When possible, avoid idling and make plans for running errands, to cut down on the number of trips you take.
* Reduce drag: If you drive a truck, smoothing out the aerodynamics of your truck with a truck bed cover
or a tonneau cover can make a big difference in fuel consumption. Covers like the Access Roll-Up Cover, manufactured by Agri-Cover Inc., a North Dakota truck accessory company, are a simple solution that will give you immediate gas mileage improvement. The roll-up cover is lockable, so it protects your gear and improves the look of your vehicle in addition to reducing drag and bringing down your gas costs. Covers can be added easily with clamp-on installation and can be rolled up behind the cab when not in use. For more information on the Access Roll-Up Cover and to find out how much gas money you could save, visit www.accesscover.com
* Choose wisely: You're typically given three options at the pump, with a trio of gasolines with different octane levels - and different prices. One of the simplest ways to cut costs is to opt for the lowest octane fuel that you can use in your vehicle. Making this change can save you hundreds of dollars per year, without sacrificing performance or gas mileage.
* Give your vehicle a check-up: Maintenance and mileage can go hand in hand, so it's important to make sure that your car is in shape for saving fuel. Check and change your oil regularly - it's an essential component in reducing wear caused by friction between moving parts in the engine. If it's not clean, or if levels are low, your vehicle won't be performing as efficiently as possible. Equally important to getting good mileage is the air pressure in your tires, which should be at the manufacturer's recommended levels (often listed on the driver's side door frame). Proper inflation can improve your gas mileage by up to 3 percent. A check of the air, oil and fuel filters should also be included in a check-up.
Making adjustments to your vehicle and the way you drive can be the best way to save yourself from going over budget on gasoline. Start with these tips and you'll be able to enjoy the season the way you want to.