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Want to boost gas mileage? A look at what works, and what doesn't

Driving style, not gadgets, can make a big difference
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Everyone these days is talking about gas prices and ways to save at the pump.

Bosco Engels, however, doesn't worry too much. He says his Prius gets 50 or 60 miles per gallon — or more.

Engles is a "hypermiler" who saves gas by treating the gas pedal like a carton of eggs.

"The best thing is to not accelerate fast, and to anticipate your braking," he said.

His biggest tips:

  • No jackrabbit starts from a stop (and don't try to race that Camaro next to you at the light)
  • Anticipate red lights and stop signs and start slowing down in advance
  • Turn the car's stop-start feature back on if it has one

By his estimates, Engels says those tips can help drivers save 10%.

His other secret? Driving the speed limit.

"Every 5 miles an hour over 70, you are going to get 5 to 10% less gas mileage," he said.

What about fuel-saving gadgets?

Drivers might also be wondering if there are any gadgets under the hood or dashboard that might boost a car's mileage.

Jason Torchinsky has studied fuel-saving devices for a decade as a tech writer for Jalopnikand The Autopian. He is not optimistic.

"Almost any fuel-saving gadget you are going to buy on the market is nothing. They are garbage," he said.

Today's cars are so high-tech and maximize every last bit of mileage they can get that Torchinsky says installing a fuel line magnet or blue light bulb in a car's cigarette lighter will not boost the mileage.

"People have done studies, laws of physics. There is no reason to believe these will do anything for you whatsoever," Torchinsky said.

He says if the gadgets really boosted mileage, every automaker would install them at the factory.

In the meantime, the FTC has shut down dozens of fuel-saving gadgets over the years that it has found to have no effect, other than lightening wallets. However, new gadgets keep popping up online.

Torchinsky says some oil additives, or thinner motor oil, might help a tiny bit.

"Maybe you will get an infinitesimal advantage of efficiency," he said.

However, he says thinner oil can also harm some engines.

So, a driver's best bet is to slow down, like Bosco Engels. That will make the biggest difference when gas is $4 at the pump, so you don't waste your money.

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