Lynn O'Shaughnessy

I've got to start this column with an admission. My lack of knowledge about cars is appalling. V-8? Isn't that what's stocked between the cranberry and grape juice in the grocery store?

But I decided that my ignorance of what happens after I insert my key into the ignition of my aging Volvo station wagon shouldn't deter me from sharing advice from a couple of automotive fanatics who can tell you what the melting point of an iridium spark plug is and, with a little prodding, would probably babble on about tribology, the science of moving parts. That's got to be a good Scrabble word.

Why should you care about a couple of guys who have spent countless hours in their garages peering up into the greasy underbelly of their hot rods, cars and trucks? Because these car guys, Ron Hollenbeck, a former Navy aviator, and Kenny Joines, who grew up building engines with his dad, promise to save you money at the pump. They've written a new book, "The Gas Mileage Bible" (Infinity Publishing, $16.95) which is aimed primarily at people who drive vehicles that seem capable of making a tank of gas disappear almost as quickly as a bag of Lay's potato chips.

The authors of "The Gas Mileage Bible" share dozens of ways that we can prolong the time that elapses between our visits to the gas station. Some of it we've heard before: don't tailgate or speed - this will burn too much gas. Duh. But the authors provide lots of advice that I haven't seen anywhere else. They also resist the temptation to lay a guilt trip on what will probably be their most motivated audience - the drivers who tool around in Chevy Tahoes, Hummers and other urban tanks. I guess $100 fill-ups are punishment enough.

The book provides technical information for the mechanically minded, but it's also a friendly read for drivers whose automotive brains haven't developed beyond the Cambrian Period.

Here's just a few of the tips from the the book:

- Be nice to your car. It's pretty clear when reading this book that most of us are automotive slackers. We treat our cars as badly as the cads who keep their dogs chained to a tree. One way to atone for our sins and boost our gas mileage, the authors suggest, is to keep our cars tuned up. The best place to find out the proper care and feeding of your vehicle is the lonely manual in your glove compartment. I confess I only open mine when a strange icon lights up on my dashboard. A good tune-up makes the engine's combustion process more efficient, which is necessary to get good fuel economy. A poorly tuned car can cost you 40 percent of the gas mileage you should be getting.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of Retirement Bible.

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