By Paul Williams

After a period of relative stability, gas prices are up again. And although several fuel-sipping vehicles — hybrids, diesels, and a soon-to-arrive electric car — have been introduced to the market over the past couple of years, they still account for a very small percentage of vehicles on the road.

For many consumers who are driving SUVs, trucks and vans especially, times are getting tough at the pump. Even owners of small cars are feeling the pinch.

But let’s face it, you can’t just walk away from your vehicle, even if it does use more fuel than you’d like. Furthermore, many people simply need a minivan for their family, a pickup truck for their work, or an SUV for its versatility.

Fortunately, there is a way for consumers to fight high gas prices, no matter what kind of vehicle they own. The idea is to maximize your mileage by driving fuel efficiently, and contrary to what you may think, this doesn’t mean you have to crawl around at Sunday-drive speeds.

What we mean by “fuel efficient” driving is combining smooth driving techniques with basic vehicle maintenance. It’s simple, really: drive close to the speed limit, for example; use a light foot on the accelerator when increasing speed; pace yourself to avoid coming to a full stop at red lights; avoid “jackrabbit” starts, and if possible, plan your daily commute to reduce the frequency of stop signs or lights on your way.

Specifically, here are some other techniques that you can employ to reduce your vehicle’s fuel consumption:

Reduce engine load

A key factor in reducing fuel consumption is the load placed on your vehicle’s engine. Reduce the load, and you’ll reduce the fuel it requires. In practice, this means adopting a smooth and even driving style. Rapid acceleration uses considerably more fuel; moderate acceleration uses less fuel. So-called “jackrabbit” starts from one stoplight to the next equate to a two-to-four per cent time saving in an hour, but a 37 per cent increase in fuel consumption, according to a study referenced by Natural Resources Canada. In short: accelerate smoothly, brake in good time, and try to maintain an even speed en route.

Reduce unnecessary weight

Reduce unnecessary weight in or on your vehicle. For example, clean off the snow and ice in the winter (it can be very heavy; why transport it?). Remove unnecessary items from the trunk and passenger area. A 50-kilogram reduction in weight equates to another one-to-two percent fuel savings (it all adds up!).

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