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Experts: Better gas mileage is possible

September 08, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Motorists can fight back against higher-than-usual gas prices by doing something besides complaining, area auto repair experts said this week.

Paul McCarty, service director at Younger Toyota Inc. in Hagerstown, said drivers can make their tank of gas last longer with proper maintenance and tune-ups.

He has noticed many of his customers do not have the proper amount of air pressure in their tires, which can also affect how quickly gas is used, he said.

Gary Thomas, manager of Firestone Tire & Service Center at Valley Mall, suggests drivers check their air pressure, follow the maintenance schedule and keep their air filters clean.

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Jeff Crampton, owner of At Pope Tire Center in Hagerstown, says tire pressure only makes a minor difference in the consumption of gas. Tires' air pressure may cause a car to pull left or right but it won't really make drivers spend much more on gas, he said.

The more important issue is keeping cars tuned up, Crampton said. If a car's "check engine" light goes on, get it checked, he said.

Drivers also should check their fuel-injection systems regularly, he said.

Scott Roach, president of Roach Oil, said he agreed with Crampton that regular maintenance is more important than the air pressure in tires.

"If you are doing good maintenance, that will keep your mileage at a premium," he said.

Roach Oil runs 16 gas stations and convenience stores in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and Hagerstown.

A lot of people are overlooking the easiest way to cut costs at the gas station: Some credit cards offer rebates on gasoline purchases, Roach said.

Shell Visa, for example, offers a 5 percent rebate on gas, meaning a savings of about 8.3 cents per gallon, he said. He said he will save a few hundred dollars this year by using a gas credit card.

While his business has seen an increase in the number of people paying for gas with credit cards, others might want to consider doing so as well, he said.

Customers seem to have become used to the higher gas prices and are not complaining much, he said.

One reason the gas prices have been high in recent weeks is that the power grid shutdown on Aug. 15 caused eight oil refineries to stop work, and one or two remain shut down, Roach said. While some gas is being sent to the East Coast by ship, the positive impact of that may take a few days, he said

But Roach said he thinks in the next week or so, the price of gas will start to drop.

"That should be good for the consumer," he said.

Roach said he thinks the prices will gradually return to a "reasonable rate" of about $1.20 to $1.50 per gallon.

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