Optimize fuel economy

We'd all prefer to spend our money at the tackle shop than the gas station. But with fuel prices expected to soar this summer, we won't have a choice ... unless we cut fuel costs.

 And that's possible. By making a conscientious effort to optimize fuel economy on the tow vehicle and boat, you might save enough cash to pay for that baitcasting reel you've been wanting.

Here's how.

Lighten the load

You'd be amazed at how much stuff you can accumulate in storage boxes, much of which is seasonal or unnecessary. Reduce weight and you'll get more boating hours on a tank of gas.

The same goes for tow vehicles. You'll reduce unnecessary weight and boost mileage by taking only what you need. Purchase boat gas, beverages and other supplies once you reach the destination.

A gallon of gas weighs between 6 to 7 pounds. Drive down the road with 20 gallons in your boat tank and you're hauling more than 100 pounds of unnecessary weight. Fuel the boat when you get near the lake.

Reduce your speed

Sure, you've got a fast boat and want to show it off. But the more you open the throttle, the more gas you're going to burn.

Actually, two-thirds throttle is still pretty fast, yet it will save an amazing amount of gas.

Also, with weight distributed throughout the boat properly and an outboard turning the correct prop, you will get on plane faster and burn less gas in the process. Boats that demand full throttle and take forever to get on plane devour fuel.

Ditto for the tow vehicle. Rapid acceleration can lower your mileage as much as 33 percent while slower driving speeds improve mileage. U.S. Department of Energy officials say that for each 10 miles per hour you drive over 60, it's like paying an additional 15 cents per gallon at the pump.

Cruise control can help you maintain a constant speed and save fuel, too, but it is counterproductive when towing through hills.

Avoid wind drag

Modern boat covers fitted properly create less drag than boat covers did years ago, but there's still some resistance. If trailering long distances, you'll get better fuel economy with the boat cover off.

Maintain your vehicle

A tuned engine with properly functioning emission systems operates at least 4 percent more efficiently than one in need of repair. A dirty or clogged air filter can increase fuel consumption by as much as 10 percent.

Air those tires

Keep tires properly inflated. Low tires create drag and can lead to heat-induced tire failures.

Studies show that each tire that is underinflated by 2 PSI can cause a 1 percent increase in fuel consumption. That means that if the air in each of your tow vehicle and tandem trailer tires are slightly below recommendations, you could be losing 16 percent in fuel economy.

Follow the tire manufacturer's recommended air pressure guidelines and remember that they can vary with changes in air temperature.

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