With the rising cost of fuel, many people are looking for ways to make their vehicles more efficient.

“There are a number of simple things to do to save a few dollars on your fuel budget,” says Carl Pedersen, North Dakota State University Extension Service energy educator. He says all vehicles are different and will experience various levels of savings, but there are a few of the basics that work for all types of cars and trucks.

Here are some of the ways you can lower your fuel costs:

Make sure your air filter is clean. Clogged air filters make your engine work harder, burning more fuel to create the same amount of power. Replacing a clogged air filter can save up to 10% on fuel costs, or up to 35 cents a gallon.

Check the air pressure on your tires. Tires that aren’t inflated to the proper level may reduce mileage per gallon as much as 3%. Properly inflated tires also last longer and are safer for you and your family. Paying attention to tire pressure could save you up to 10 cents per gallon. Overinflating a tire results in uneven tire wear.

Slow down. Most vehicle mileage drastically begins to drop off at speeds in excess of 60 mph. As a general rule, every 5 miles an hour in excess of 60 mph is costing you an extra 20 cents a gallon.

Calm down. Aggressive driving, rapid acceleration and braking can affect fuel mileage. By avoiding such behavior, you can see savings up to 30%. That could be a savings of more than $1 per gallon.

Remove extra weight. Those bags of traction sand you left in the bed of the truck or trunk are reducing your mileage. Extra weight will affect smaller cars more than larger vehicles, but removing extra weight, especially in excess of 100 pounds, can improve mileage from 4 cents to 7 cents a gallon.

Car pool. Combining trips with friends, family or co-workers not only saves gas money, but wear and tear on vehicles as well.

Be leery of “gas-saving” claims. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has tested more than 100 fuel-saving products and has found none that significantly improve fuel mileage. In fact, a number of them actually caused damage to the engines in which they were used.

Make sure your car is maintained according to manufacturers' recommendations. Driving a car with the check engine light on or one that obviously is not running properly can affect mileage drastically. An improperly functioning oxygen sensor can make the engine use as much as 40 percent more fuel. At $3.51 per gallon, that would be the equivalent of paying an extra $1.40 for every gallon of gas used.

Reduce extra wind resistance. Using a loaded roof rack increases fuel consumption.

If you are in the market for a new vehicle, choose one that is more fuel efficient. According to the federal government Web site http://www.fueleconomy.gov, a person driving 15,000 miles a year can realize a savings of $878 per year by driving a vehicle that gets 30 miles per gallon versus one that gets 20 mpg. That is a savings of more than $4,388 in five years.

For more tips on cutting your fuel costs, visit these Web sites:
http://agbiopubs.sdstate.edu/articles/ExEx14094.pdf
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/drive.shtml
http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/oilgas/archive/061013.htm