Driving strategies to improve mileage

Marco Buscaglia
Tribune News Service
Slowly entering traffic and easing into stops can help delay the need to fill up.

With spring officially back in swing, be prepared for gas prices to begin their annual ascent.

Small yet significant changes in your driving habits can help you cut a few bucks off your monthly gas expenses. Many drivers have come to realize that subtle alterations to their driving strategies become second nature within a matter of weeks. Here are a few changes you can consider to increase your gas mileage.

Slow and steady: No more pedal-to-the-metal entries into traffic. Instead, accelerate at a smooth slow and consistent pace. The same approach works for stopping as well. If you’re coming up on a red light, don’t wait until the last second to apply your brakes. Instead, take your foot off the gas pedal to coast. Your vehicle will naturally slow down until you need to apply pressure to the brakes to come to a complete stop.

Edmund’s, the online auto site, once tested a series of drivers on their driving habits and found that those drivers who eased into traffic and slowed into stops improve their gas mileage by approximately 35 percent.

Cruise control counts: When driving on the highway, it can be tempting to try to pass the cars around you continually. That’s why cruise control is a helpful tool for drivers. Not only does it keep your speed consistent, it can also help eliminate the tendency to speed ahead when you’re already driving 5 miles above the speed limit.

If you have a car with a display that shows the miles per gallon you’re getting at any given speed, find that sweet spot and set your cruise control accordingly.

Roll ’em up: if you’re driving down side streets or in your subdivision, your car won’t be too affected by aerodynamic issues. But if you’re going more than 35 miles per hour, it’s a good idea to roll up your windows and use your air conditioning. Open windows and open sunroofs increase drag, adding resistance as your car travels. They should remain closed if you’re trying to drive as efficiently as possible.

It’s also possible to increase the aerodynamic efficiency of your car by removing that roof rack, especially if you never use it. If you do, consider that storing your luggage on top of your vehicle during the occasional road trip can hurt your gas mileage.

There’s nothing aerodynamic about an oversized duffle bag or carrier on top of your car. if possible, keep your luggage inside the car or, better yet, pack less.