While gas prices continue their wild fluctuations on a daily basis, consumers can make a few minor adjustments in the way they care for their vehicles that will result in both financial savings and a better running car.
* First, get the junk out of the trunk. Car trunks often serve as catch-alls for everything from flat tires to old clothing. Reducing the overall weight of a vehicle will increase mileage by about 2 percent over the course of the year.
* Check tire pressure frequently. Under-inflated tires can cause tires to drag and use more gas. Checking tire pressure takes just a few minutes at the gas pump, and most filling stations have air hoses handy if a customer is in need of a few pounds of air.
* Use proper tires for the season. While it's not unusual for Missouri to suffer massive snowfall in March, by April, those snow tires should have come off and been replaced by a good radial tire. Radials reduce the friction between the tire and the road, which results in gas savings over the course of the year.
* Proper alignment can save money. Make sure tires are regularly spun, balanced, checked and rotated. This simple practice will not only save gas but give tires a longer road life as well.
* Have a qualified mechanic check suspension and chassis parts. Bent axles, bad shocks and other unseen problems can cause engine drag, which not only increases drag on the vehicle but makes the car unsafe to drive. Have brakes regularly checked and adjusted to prevent drag.
* Use the manufacturer's recommended oil grade for the vehicle. Also check for oil that lists "energy conserving" on the performance label. This type of oil has additives that reduce engine friction.
* Check the spark plugs. Worn spark plugs can reduce fuel efficiency by up to 30 percent.
* Get regular tune ups. A good tune up can pay for itself in gas savings.
* Replace broken or missing gas caps. Fuel evaporates. The Car Council estimates nearly 150 million gallons of fuel are lost annually to evaporation. Not only is it bad for the wallet, it's bad for the environment.
* Wind resistance from luggage racks and other after-market add-ons can cause air drag. The less aerodynamic the vehicle, the more fuel it will use. Removing luggage racks will also reduce the wind noise inside the vehicle.
* Wash the car. Seriously, a dirty car is not aerodynamic. A smooth, waxed surface will offer less wind resistance.
* Newer cars with fuel injection are not as prone to failing gas performance from clogged air filters, but owners should periodically check and replace oil and gas filters to increase fuel performance, which will make the car last longer.