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Your car's air conditioning can use up gas. How to save fuel on hot days as prices rise

Simone Jasper, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Automotive News

Hot temperatures are scorching much of the United States, breaking records ahead of the official start of summer.

And while you might want to seek relief in the air conditioning, blasting it in your car can use up gas just as prices at the pump soar.

“If you’re trying to save mileage, you’re giving up a little bit of comfort,” Steve Reinarts, automotive instructor at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, told KARE.

Here’s what experts say about conserving fuel while getting a break from the heat.

How could air conditioning impact fill-ups?

Using air conditioning can impact your car’s fuel economy, which refers to the distance you can travel before having to fill up again, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

 

“Running your car’s air conditioning is the main contributor to reduced fuel economy in hot weather,” the department said on its website. “Its effect depends on a number of factors, such as the outside temperature, humidity, and intensity of the sun. Under very hot conditions, AC use can reduce a conventional vehicle’s fuel economy by more than 25%, particularly on short trips.”

Though the topic has been debated, experts say riding with open windows also has the potential to reduce fuel economy.

“Rolling down your windows instead of using AC causes aerodynamic drag,” AAA told McClatchy News in a June 15 email. “In many cases, this increase in drag at highway speeds negates any savings on engine load from not using AC.”

How can you conserve gas?

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