Gasoline prices have risen 33 percent this year, and with the average cost of gas now at more than $4 a gallon, Americans are struggling to stay on the road without breaking their bank accounts. Some businesses though are seeing an opportunity to make money by selling fuel boosting additives or offering engine modifications to help drivers conserve fuel. However, Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to stay away from gas saving products, parts and modifications that sound too-good-to-be-true and is offering advice on more reliable ways to conserve fuel.
Over the past decade, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tested more than 100 gas-saving devices and hasn’t identified any that significantly improve gas mileage. Energy and Environmental Analysis Inc., a technical consulting firm in Washington, D.C., estimates that 99 percent of the aftermarket products do not really change fuel economy. The EPA notes that the majority of “gas saving” products are harmless to vehicles, but testing has found that some products can cause substantial increases in exhaust emissions, thereby increasing the chances of actual engine damage.
“With the cost of oil nearing $150 a barrel – and gas pushing $5 a gallon in some parts of the country – additives and gadgets to help conserve fuel are very tempting for cash-strapped consumers,” said Karen Nalven, BBB spokesperson. “Unfortunately, these devices and additives will only end up draining the driver’s wallet without adding the much needed boost to their gas tank.”
BBB notes that consumers are being inundated with ads that play off frustration and concern over high gas prices. One Web site asks: “Do You Want To Know RIGHT NOW How You Can Drive Around Using WATER as FUEL and Laugh At Rising Gas Costs, While Reducing Emissions and Preventing Global Warming?” Another Web site boasts that they “have discovered some little-known products that can actually help you increase your fuel mileage 10%, 20%, 40% and possibly more!” Despite advertising claims, BBB is advising drivers that there is no simple, single way to improve fuel economy.
BBB recommends being particularly skeptical if advertisements claim:
• Federal Endorsement. While the EPA does evaluate the legitimacy of claims made by companies that produce gas savers, no federal agency actually endorses gas-saving devices or additives.
• Glowing Consumer Testimonials. Marketing materials or Web sites for gas savers often contain consumer testimony on the increased fuel efficiency they experienced with the device or additive, but these are often works of fiction devised by the company.
• Outstanding, Too-Good-To-Be-True Results. Consumers should be extremely wary of big promises for big savings. If a gas-saving product really could increase mileage by as much as 40 percent with little effort or money, it is highly unlikely the inventor needs to peddle the product through spam e-mails or tacky-looking Web sites.
The vast majority of gas-conserving products are not viable solutions for squeezing mileage out of vehicles, but, as BBB explains, there are a few basic steps that all drivers can take to increase fuel efficiency and get the most out of their gas tank:
• Stay within the speed limit. BBB recommends that drivers stay within the posted speed limits since gas mileage tends to decrease rapidly at speeds above 60 miles per hour.
• Avoid “jackrabbit” starts and stops. Drivers can improve gas mileage up to five percent around town if they avoid jerky starts and stops. This means accelerating slowly when starting from a dead stop and avoiding pushing the pedal down more than one-quarter of the way; this allows the carburetor to function at peak efficiency.
• Use overdrive gears and cruise controls. Cruise control and overdrive gears improve fuel economy when driving on the highway.
• Go ahead, use the AC. Using the air conditioner at lower speeds will decrease fuel efficiency, but, at higher speeds, open windows create significantly more drag than the AC – and can reduce gas mileage by 10 percent.
• Remove excess weight from the trunk. An extra 100 pounds can reduce a typical car’s fuel economy by up to two percent.
• Keep the car properly maintained. The engine should be tuned, tires inflated and aligned, the oil changed on schedule and the air filters should be checked and replaced regularly. Replacing clogged filters can increase gas mileage up to 10 percent.
Before buying any gas-saving device or additive, BBB recommends that consumers check out the company’s reliability report free-of-charge online at www.bbb.org.
For more money-saving advice from BBB for consumers, go to www.bbb.org.