SIKESTON -- Fourth of July is over, and vacation season is at its height right now with skyrocketing fuel prices lingering at the pumps.
"Fuel is so expensive right now, customers are asking for anything they can do to save gas," said Wade Owens, service manager of Morlan Dodge Inc. in Sikeston.
Local auto experts insist it's small things motorists can do to get the most of their vehicles and save fuel -- even if prices continue to rise.
"That's the honest truth," said Lanny Bell, service manager of Autry Morlan Chevrolet-Cadillac Inc. in Dexter.
To save gas, among services motorists should have done to their vehicles include alignment and air pressure-in-tire checks, spark plug tune-ups, air filter changes and brakes tests, Bell said.
"General studies show 65 percent of cars on road are not up to date with maintenance," Rick Noon, manager of Plaza Tire Service Inc. in Sikeston, said. "So the biggest thing a motorist can do is check air pressure in the tires weekly."
Owens agreed. Generally, information to check tire pressure is located on the inside of the driver's door.
"The old way was to check information on the side of tire, but now they put a label on the inside of the door," Owens said.
The Car Care Council says when tires aren't inflated properly it's like driving with the parking brake on and can cost a mile or two per gallon.
"Neglecting front-end alignments can rob you of gas mileage," Bell said. In addition to checking the air filter, check the fuel filter and clean fuel injectors, Noon said.
"All that ties into gas mileage and engine performance as well as the life expectancy of the vehicle," Noon said.
An air filter that is clogged with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off the air and creates a "rich" mixture -- too much gas being burned for the amount of air, which wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent, saving about 15 cents a gallon, the Car Care Council reports.
About 17 percent of vehicles on the roads have gas caps that are either damaged, loose or are missing altogether, causing 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize each year, according to Car Care Council.
Spark plugs are important to replace regularly because a dirty spark causes misfiring, which wastes fuel. A vehicle can have either four, six or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as 3 million times every 1,000 miles, resulting in a lot of heat and electrical chemical erosion.
Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by as much as 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent on city streets, which results in 7 to 49 cents per gallon.
"One of the biggest things we see is the faster travel, the less fuel economy they get," Owens said.
Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 miles per hour. Each mile per gallon driven over 60 will result in an additional 10 cents per gallon.
"Setting cruise control will help save gas because you're not constantly pushing on and off the gas pedal," Owens said.
One other recommendation is to avoid, if possible, packing anything on top of the car, Owens said.
"The wind resistance causes the car to work harder," Owens said. An extra 100 pounds can cut fuel efficiency by a percent or two.
For those planning to travel long distances by car this summer, a general, overall inspection is recommended, Noon said.
Free service interval schedules can be printed from the Car Care Council's Web site at www.carcare.org.