That badonkadonk in your trunk is not an economic slam dunk.

march_madness_basketball-13408Love it or hate it, March can be a maddening month. For NCAA basketball fans, March Madness sets in with all of its ball-dribbling hoopla. Off the court, you might be the one jumping through hoops to keep gas in your tank as fuel prices continue their maddening jumps and alley-oops, leaving you feeling dunked.

Luckily there are things you can do to improve your fuel economy. Like the lean and mean basketball players, some of these tricks require a bit of behavior modification that takes practice, practice, practice. This month, try these spring training tips and driving drills that will add miles to our travels and put money in our pockets.

According to the How Stuff Consumer Guide, these tips can improve fuel economy by 20 percent. For SUV owners getting 18 miles a gallon, that totals savings of $400 a year – or four Indiana Hoosiers NCAA championship tickets, if one were so inclined.

Begin your driving drill with a warm-up tip on warming up your car. Don’t leave the motor running for more than 30 seconds. “What?!” you yelp. “Hello! I live in Michigan where the average March temperature is 29 degrees! I leave my car running until my bagel is toasted!””

fuel economyThirty seconds is all it takes for most cars to warm up enough to blast the heat. Leaving your engine running with heat going full throttle wastes gas. And gas costs how much per gallon these days?

Once your car is warmed up, start dribbling out of the driveway. It’s no joke – slow and steady wins the fuel economy race. Driving slow is not sexy, but money in your pocket is.

There are benefits to not blasting the pedal to the medal. You’ll save time by staying within the speed limit. Speeding doesn’t get us anywhere that much faster.

Plus, going the speed limit saves money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website on fuel economy,, every five miles an hour you drive over 50 mph equates to an additional $0.26 per gallon for gas. Conversely, going the speed limit saves you two to four miles per gallon. Swish! Three points from the line!

Another great tip: look at the junk in your trunk. You may love a hearty heiny, but getting rid of vehicle-toting badonkadonk is a money-saving slam-dunk.

Again, breaks it down into dollars and cents. Removing that heavy stroller, last summer’s camping gear and that case of fig salsa you bought at the big-box store but have no room for in the house can increase fuel efficiency by a full 2 percent. This is especially true for small and compact cars.

That takes care of our mental game. Now, give your car the automotive equivalent of a physical to make sure you’re maintaining a lean, mean, efficient economic machine.

infoCheckingAirPressureCheck air pressure in your tires. Driving around with the correct pressure saves money in two ways. First, inflating your tires to the proper pressure decreases the “rolling resistance” that occurs when driving on low tires. Second, minimizing that floppy grip on the road extends the life of your tires, and consequently, takes your dollars a few more miles down the road. Dirty air filters also gunk up the works, diminishing efficiency.

Make sure you stay on top of your manual’s maintenance schedule. Are you due for a tune-up? Give your car a complete once-over to make sure it’s in fighting shape. Don’t put it off thinking you’ll save money on the bill; pay now, save later.

The last part of our training might be the hardest. Roll up the windows. Rolling up your window prevents wind resistance, which increases fuel economy. Granted, it’s no trick to keep windows closed on frigid days. But when the buds start to open on those sweet-smelling spring days? Think of it as the three-pointer at the buzzer, the seasonal Hail Mary at the line that makes the game worth playing. Then again, if keeping the windows up gives you the sweats, roll them down and let the wind rip.

Spring fever trumps March madness every time.

By Kenny the Car Guy Walters, a member of Temple Israel, owns the award-winning auto shop Mufflers and More at 490 N. Pontiac Trail in Walled Lake, 248.668.1200. Email Kenny the Car Guy at

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