Fueling rumors

Experts set record straight on gas myths
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal Staff Writer
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With the price of a gallon of gas costing more than a tall mocha Frappuccino these days, motorists of all makes and models might be driven to do almost anything to stretch their fuel economy and efficiency. There are a lot of gas myths and gimmicks floating around, just waiting for someone to take the bait in a desperate attempt to lengthen the time between visits to the pump. It's important for motorists, motorcyclists and 18-wheelers alike to take what they hear with a grain of salt, say local automotive experts. It's also important to keep some simple tips in mind. Chris Bradford, shop foreman at Magnussen's Auburn Toyota, has been working on cars for roughly 30 years and has heard a lot of misinformation in his day. One of his current favorites is gas pills and other fuel additives. I have yet to see any of them actually do anything, he said. I just recently saw something for one of these on TV that promised 50 miles per gallon or upwards of that ¦ I haven't heard of anything that is, ˜Wow, out of this world ” you should buy this,' that has really worked. Sean Comey, a public information officer for AAA of Northern California, agrees. Studies have shown gimmicks like these are at best a waste of your money and could possibly damage your engine and void your vehicle's warrantee, he said. Customizations to the body of a vehicle, such as front and rear spoilers or the removal of a truck's tailgate, won't do anything to help maximize mileage. Adding spoilers and removing a truck's tailgate will not increase efficiency, he said. Of front and rear spoilers, Bradford said that both of those add up to wind resistance, or wind drag, which both add up to reduced fuel economy. Comey said the best bet is to leave the tailgate on the truck. Aerodynamic studies show that pickups actually get better gas mileage when they are driven with them up, he said. What about replacing the tailgate with a net? They say that what may help is a net instead of a tailgate, Bradford said. That will actually increase (efficiency) a tiny bit. Comey said there is no right time of day to fill a vehicle's gas tank. In California, fuel tanks are underground and act like a giant thermos bottle, he said. Fuel temperatures vary very little from morning to night. Another gas myth suggests gassing up while a fuel truck is refilling a station's tanks might result in the sediment previously sitting at the bottom of the station's tanks ending up in your car. Not to worry, Comey said ” gas station pumps and car engines have filters, so this shouldn't be of much concern. Bradford said the issue might not rest with sediment as much as water in some tanks. We have seen issues where people have brought a vehicle in due to a drivability issue, he said. The common factor with some of these vehicles is that the gas came from off-the-beaten-path stations. It's possible that tanks could accumulate condensation over time, which mixes with the fuel, Bradford said. It hasn't necessarily been sediment, but water that's mixed in there, he said. With spring popping up and summer just around the corner, foothill motorists are likely groaning over the not-so-distant need to crank the air conditioning in their cars. What's better ” driving with the windows down or running the AC? A car is designed for maximum efficiency with the windows rolled up, Bradford said. You will probably get a little more using the air conditioning properly ” with the re-circulation mode on, maybe not having it all the way cold, and not having the fan all the way on. With windows down, that's actually causing quite a bit of drag. If you have a four-door sedan and you have all the windows down, that back window is almost like a sail. Jerry Sauers, owner of the GCS 76 Service Station on Lincoln Way at Foresthill Road, said using quality fuel has a positive effect on a car's mileage. I think the most important thing to do is use a high-quality fuel, he said. It's a proven fact that the quality gases get you better mileage. To improve mileage, motorists should also think outside of the tank and look down at their tires. You definitely get better mileage when you keep (tires) between the (specifications), Sauers said. Under-inflated tires are definitely gas-guzzlers. It's taking more effort to push that tire down the road. It affects (efficiency) more than any other aspect, other than a poorly-tuned motor, and it's the easiest to take care of. The Journal's Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at, or comment online at