National Car Care Month Presents Opportunity to Tune Up Driving -- and Wallets

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Tips save gas, money while boosting mileage for any vehicle.

October is National Car Care Month, and Andrew Housser, co-founder and co-CEO of free online consumer portal Bills.com (http://www.bills.com), offers consumers 11 tips for eliminating some of their car care expenses by tuning up their driving style.

"This month is the perfect time to check up on your vehicle before winter conditions set in -- and to make some changes that could save you money at the gas pump this month and in the future," Housser said.

While vehicle mileage varies from 50 miles per gallon and up for the latest hybrids, to the single digits for some super-thirsty SUVs, vehicle owners do have some leeway in determining just how efficient their vehicles are. Consider these suggestions for slaking a vehicle's thirst -- and at the same time putting some extra money in your pocket.

1. Take it easy. Aggressive driving -- accelerating as fast as possible, keeping your foot on the gas at every moment and hitting the brakes hard to stop -- burns through gas. In fact, recent tests by the driving experts at Edmunds.com revealed that driving more moderately can improve gas mileage by up to 37 percent.1 This means taking off from a stop at a moderate pace, driving slower (say, the speed limit or below), and allowing a long braking distance in order to come to a stop slowly. Driving moderately also improves safety and eliminates the risk of a speeding ticket, which saves still more money in the long run.

2. Switch it off. Do not idle. If the vehicle will be stationary for more than a minute or so, turn off the engine.

3. Lighten the load. Take a look inside the trunk. "If you are carting around your spouse's bowling ball, your son's hockey gear and your dog's kennel, clear out the car to reduce weight and improve mileage," Housser suggested.

4. Check it out. Follow the vehicle's recommended maintenance schedule. A well-maintained car -- especially one that has regular oil changes, fuel filter changes and air filter changes -- will run more efficiently and more safely.

5. Cruise. Do use cruise control to maintain speed and eliminate unnecessary acceleration. But when driving in hilly terrain, turn it off -- it wastes gas powering up slopes.

6. Pump it up. Inflate tires to the recommended pressure (check the owner's manual for the right number). This makes the ride smoother, which also smooths out gas mileage. More importantly, it extends the life of the tires and improves control and safety, which saves costs of replacement tires and avoided accidents.

7. Fresh air or A/C. "Whether you open the windows or turn on the air conditioning, you'll lower your gas mileage," Housser said. "But the net effect is about the same, so do whatever makes you comfortable (but not both)."

8. Fill it to the brim - but not beyond. Don't "top off" the gas tank after the automatic gauge stops. This habit ups the chance of spilled gas, which wastes money and creates a hazard.

9. Park in the shade. In warm weather, parking in the shade decreases gas evaporation and allows more time between fill-ups.

10. Skip the rush. If possible, avoid driving during rush hour. Stop-and-go driving sucks up gas. If rush-hour driving is unavoidable, look into alternate routes that keep cars moving at a slow but steady pace.

11. Just say no. Of course, the best way to save on gas is to avoid driving. "If your company offers a bus pass or carpool program, take advantage of it," Housser suggested. "For an even cheaper way to commute, look into bicycling to work -- you'll get your workout and your commute at the same time."

"With a few changes, drivers can enhance their mileage -- and in many cases, improve their safety on the road at the same time," Housser added. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com is a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages and other loans. The company blogs about consumer finance issues at http://www.bills.com/blog. Since 2002, Bills.com has served more than 30,000 customers nationwide while managing more than $500 million in consumer debt. Bills.com is a division of Freedom Financial Network, LLC, whose co-founders and CEOs, Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh, have been named Northern California finalists in Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

1 - http://www.edmunds.com/advice/fueleconomy/articles/106842/article.html#test4

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