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Skyrocketing prices provide motorists with immediate incentive to conserve gas

While it is always a good idea to conserve gasoline, recent price increases have provided motorists with an immediate incentive.

Here's advice from the professionals at the non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence:

• Monitor your tires. Under-inflated tires or poorly aligned wheels waste fuel by forcing the engine to work harder. Let the tires cool down before checking the air pressure. Out-of-line wheels, as evidenced by uneven tread wear, should be aligned by a professional.

• Avoid excessive engine idling. Shut off your vehicle while waiting for friends and family.

• Observe speed limits. Speeding decreases the amount of miles per gallon you receive for your gasoline.

• Drive gently. Sudden accelerations guzzle gas. Anticipate traffic patterns ahead and adjust your speed gradually. Use cruise control. You'll help your brakes and suspension system last longer, too.

• Remove excess weight. Remove unnecessary items from the vehicle. Store only essentials in the trunk. Less weight means better mileage.

• Use windows and air conditioning wisely. If possible, avoid using your air conditioner in heavy, stop-and-go traffic such as traffic jams or holiday weekend backups.

• Keep your engine operating at its peak efficiency. A well-maintained engine will help you maximize the gas mileage for your specific make and model. A misfiring spark plug can reduce gas mileage. Follow the service schedules listed in your owner's manual.

Replace filters and fluids as recommended; have engine performance problems — rough idling, poor acceleration, etc. — corrected at a repair facility. Given today's high-tech engines, it's wise to have this type of work done by auto technicians who are ASE certified in engine performance.

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence was founded in 1972 as a non-profit, independent organization dedicated to improving the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive technicians.

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