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Back in the car, back to buying gas

IF you've been biking and walking more often this summer, the return to four wheels might feel like a sharp pinch in the pocketbook.

IF you've been biking and walking more often this summer, the return to four wheels might feel like a sharp pinch in the pocketbook.

But if you pay attention to your driving habits - when and where you drive, how often, the speed you travel, your aggressiveness on the road and other factors - you can still save money on fuel.

You can control the costs of operating a vehicle and minimize the emissions it produces by making a commitment to drive less and to drive more efficiently. The following AutoSmart Thinking tips can improve your fuel efficiency

- Track your fuel consumption. By tracking your fuel consumption, you can monitor how many kilometers you get out of a tank of fuel. Using fuel-efficient driving practices can increase the distance you travel for every tank. To find out how much fuel your vehicle uses, register today to use Natural Resources Canada's online fuel consumption calculator at http: // The calculator will help you track your fuel consumption and compare it with the ratings in the EnerGuide Fuel Consumption Guide. You can also share your fuel consumption with others.

- Reduce your speed. Decreasing your speed from 120 km/h to 100 km/h uses 20 per cent less fuel. Follow the speed limit and use cruise control on flat highway terrain to prevent inadvertent speeding and, in many cases, help save fuel by keeping your speed constant.

- Don't drive aggressively. When combined, speeding, quick acceleration and hard stops - all considered aggressive driving - can increase fuel consumption by 25 per cent. Driving smoothly is safer and more fuel-efficient.

- Use air conditioning sparingly. Due to the extra load on the engine, air conditioning can increase your vehicle's fuel consumption by up to 20 per cent. Where possible, use your vehicle's flow-through ventilation on the highway, or open a window when city driving.

- Lighten your load. The added weight of heavy items in your trunk and the decreased efficiency of your vehicle's aerodynamics caused by roof or bicycle racks contribute to increased fuel consumption. Lighten your load by carrying only what you need.

- Measure your tire pressure at least once a month. Properly inflated tires last longer, make your vehicle safer to drive and save fuel. Inflate cold tires to the recommended pressure, which is usually indicated near or on the driver's door, in the glove compartment or in the owner's manual.

- Plan and combine trips. Plan in advance to avoid rush hour or construction zones and save time on the road. Also, combine trips into one outing to save time, fuel and money. Trips of less than five kilometres do not allow the engine to reach its peak operating temperature, which means fuel consumption and exhaust emissions will be significantly higher than when covering the same distance with a warm engine.

- Avoid unnecessary idling. If you're stopped for more than 60 seconds, except while in traffic, turn off your engine. This has minimal impact on the starter system, and idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than it takes to restart your vehicle. Unnecessary idling for 10 minutes a day uses about five per cent more fuel over the year.

- Service your vehicle regularly. Consult your owner's manual to learn about the proper care and maintenance of your vehicle. Follow the service recommendations and change the air filter, spark plugs, engine oil and other fluids accordingly to ensure you get optimum performance and fuel efficiency. A poorly maintained vehicle uses more fuel and creates more emissions.

- Use public transit or active transportation whenever possible. or Do you have a short errand to run? Consider walking, biking or using public transit. Using these alternatives immediately reduces both your fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information about saving money on fuel and energy, visit http: //

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