Gas prices lowest in S.C., but you can save even more


According to the AAA, the average price of gas in the United States was $3.43 per gallon as of Monday. In South Carolina, the average is $3.14. That's the lowest in the nation, which means it will cost us less to drive to our Labor Day destinations. Just last year, it would have cost 11 cents more for a gallon of gas.

While $3.14 might seem pretty high, think about the poor Hawaiians who are paying the highest price at $4.30. Granted, they can't drive nearly as far as we might choose to, but still ... And in California, where you would think the Alaskan pipeline would make a difference in prices, they're paying $3.87.

No matter where you live, there are steps you can take to maximize your gas mileage.

For example, driving fast burns more gas. According to the U.S. government website, "While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph. You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas."

If you already watch your speed, there are several other things you can do to your vehicle to improve mileage, some that will reduce driving time and still others that involve changing your driving habits.

Tire pro Billy Burrows, vice president of Ace Parker Tires, said taking care of your tires can make a significant difference in gas mileage. Get yourself a "good tire gauge, and check the pressure every two weeks. Be sure the pressure is what's recommended for your car and tire size. You can find that on the car's door jamb."

That's borne out by the experts at the Michelin tire company, who note "underinflated tires are one of the biggest causes of using excess fuel in the world." That increase in gas burning is substantial: "... operating a vehicle with underinflated tires can result in a 25 percent reduction in fuel economy," according to AAA.

Check tire pressure in the morning, before the tire has been warmed by the heat of the day, which increases the tire pressure, Burrows said.

He added that some tires are made to enhance fuel efficiency, too.

" ... others are made for 'handling' and high speed driving," Burrows said.

Other driving tips from AAA and Michelin include:

- Avoid using a rooftop luggage carrier. It increases drag by destroying whatever gas-saving aerodynamics your car design offers.

- Minimize the weight you carry around in your car. The more weight it carries, the more fuel it must use. So ... diet? That might help a tiny bit, but cleaning out the trunk and back seat improves fuel efficiency much more. An extra 100 pounds increases fuel consumption by about 2 percent. Some people go so far as to remove their cars' unused seats.

- Gas is heavy. Ten gallons weigh about 60 pounds. Fill your tank only one-quarter to half full when feasible.

- Stop and speed up gradually. This saves wear and tear on your brakes, too.

- Try to do as many of your errands as possible on one trip, and map out the shortest route.

- Keep your tires balanced and your front end in alignment. Rotate your tires, too, as uneven wear can reduce mileage.

- Roll up your windows and turn on the A/C when it's hot. Modern air conditioners create less drag than driving with the windows open, particularly at speeds above 35.

- Keep the air filter clean. Clogged filters reduce fuel economy and increase exhaust emissions.

- Drive the speed limit.

Visit the websites and for more information on saving gas.