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Get Better Gas Mileage No Matter What You Drive

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Doug Dunbar
Doug is co-anchor of CBS 11 News at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. He is a mult...
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COLLEYVILLE (CBSDFW.COM) - Tired of forking over your hard-earned money when you pull up to the gas pump? While we can’t do much about the rising gas prices themselves, we can tell you about a way to pump up your gas mileage and relieve the stress on your wallet at the same time.

When April Sulley of Colleyville gets behind the wheel of her Hummer H2, she can practically feel money draining from her wallet — right through her gas tank. “It’s $100 to fill it up,” Sulley explained. That’s $100 to fill up her gas tank every five to six days. Add that all up, and the mother of two spends more than $6,000 each year on gas.

Lewisville resident Chuck Thomas said that he can help people — like Sulley — save some green at the pump. He is part of a growing group of drivers known as hypermilers. “You don’t realize how much gas you waste,” Thomas said. “Anybody can improve their fuel economy 20 percent.”

Thomas agreed to join CBS 11 News producer Stuart Boslow in his Toyota Prius, and teach him the four simple steps to hypermiling so that he could track the progress. “I’ve got 49.2 miles per gallon (mpg) off of my last 379 miles,” Boslow explained. And while that is above the 44 mpg average for the Prius, Thomas assured that he could do better.

The first step in hypermiling is learning about pedal pressure. Thomas said that you should lighten up on the gas pedal as much as possible. “You’d be amazed at how light you can have the pedal and still maintain your speed,” Thomas said.

The second step to hypermiling is to always look ahead for a chance to take your foot completely off the gas and coast. If you see an upcoming red light or stop sign, remove your foot from the gas and coast to it. The idea is to use the gas pedal as much as possible. After two miles of hypermiling instruction, the counter in the Prius jumped from 49.2 to 52.7 mpg.

Step three is all about speed. Thomas said that you should drive the speed limit or less in order to maintain a heightened gas mileage. “Give yourself time,” he said. “You want to plan ahead. It’s like defensive driving on a higher level. You’re thinking ahead.”

Step four is to leave your aggression behind. If you drive aggressively, you will almost always burn gas by pushing the pedal harder to accelerate.

After a 10-mile drive in the Prius, Boslow’s gas mileage did in fact go up 20 percent — from 49.2 to 59.9 mpg.

So, hypermiling worked in an already fuel-efficient Prius. But what about with Sulley’s 10 mpg Hummer H2? “If I’m going to save some money it’s worth the try,” Sulley said, as she prepared for a week of hypermiling. CBS 11 News had her hypermile for one week as she drove her children to and from school, piano lessons, baseball practices and back home. At the end of that week, we returned to see how she did.

“I drove 308 miles and I filled up with 26.185,” she reported. “So, that gives me 11.762. I averaged a little under 12 miles per gallon.” That’s just shy of a 20 percent bump in her gas mileage. “Once you start doing it, it does become a habit, and you’re saving money,” Sulley said.

Some other tips from Thomas include cleaning out your trunk, or the back part of your vehicle. The less weight that there is for the engine to move, the more your gas mileage will go up. Also, make sure that your engine is in top running condition and that your tires are properly inflated. And if you are going to be idling for more than 30 seconds, Thomas said, you should cut off your engine. Idling gets you 0 mpg, so the less idling you do, the better your gas mileage will be.

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