BBB warning: Watch out for gas scams

Monday, June 30, 2008

 

Gasoline prices have risen 33 percent this year, and with the average cost of gas now at more than $4 a gallon, Americans are struggling to stay on the road without breaking their bank accounts. Some businesses though are seeing an opportunity to make money by selling fuel boosting additives or offering engine modifications to help drivers conserve fuel. Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to stay away from gas saving products, parts and modifications that sound too-good-to-be-true and is offering advice on more reliable ways to conserve fuel.

The BBB says that over the past decade, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tested more than 100 gas-saving devices and hasn’t identified any that significantly improve gas mileage. Energy and Environmental Analysis Inc., a technical consulting firm in Washington, D.C., estimates that 99 percent of the aftermarket products do not really change fuel economy. The EPA notes that the majority of “gas saving” products are harmless to vehicles, but testing has found that some products can cause substantial increases in exhaust emissions, thereby increasing the chances of actual engine damage.

Consumers are being inundated with ads that play off frustration and concern over high gas prices. One Web site asks: “Do You Want To Know RIGHT NOW How You Can Drive Around Using WATER as FUEL and Laugh At Rising Gas Costs, While Reducing Emissions and Preventing Global Warming?” Another Web site boasts that they “have discovered some little-known products that can actually help you increase your fuel mileage 10%, 20%, 40% and possibly more!” Despite advertising claims, there is no simple, single way to improve fuel economy.

Be particularly skeptical if advertisements claim:

  • Federal endorsement. While the EPA does evaluate the legitimacy of claims made by companies that produce gas savers, no federal agency actually endorses gas-saving devices or additives.
  • Glowing testimonials. Marketing materials or Web sites for gas savers often contain consumer testimony on the increased fuel efficiency they experienced with the device or additive, but these are often works of fiction devised by the company.
  • Too-good-to-be-true. Consumers should be extremely wary of big promises for big savings. If a gas-saving product really could increase mileage by as much as 40% why would it only be available through spam e-mails or unprofessional looking web sites.

BBB suggests a few steps all drivers can take to get the most out of their gas purchases:

  • Stay within the speed limit. Gas mileage tends to decrease rapidly at speeds above 60 miles per hour.
  • Avoid “jackrabbit” starts and stops. Drivers can improve gas mileage up to five percent around town if they avoid jerky starts and stops. This means accelerating slowly when starting from a dead stop and avoiding pushing the pedal down more than one-quarter of the way; this allows the carburetor to function at peak efficiency.
  • Use overdrive gears and cruise controls. Cruise control and overdrive gears improve fuel economy when driving on the highway.
  • Go ahead, use the AC. Using the air conditioner at lower speeds will decrease fuel efficiency, but, at higher speeds, open windows create significantly more drag than the AC – and can reduce gas mileage by 10%.
  • Remove excess weight from the trunk. An extra 100 pounds can reduce a typical car’s fuel economy by up to two percent.
  • Keep the car properly maintained. The engine should be tuned, tires inflated and aligned, the oil changed on schedule and the air filters should be checked and replaced regularly. Replacing clogged filters can increase gas mileage up to 10 percent.

 

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