How I’m beating high gas prices

If it seems like you’re not getting a break at the pump this fall, it’s because you’re not.

According to Triple-A, the price declines that usually follow the summer driving season are just not happening this year.

The auto club issued a report this week showing gas prices are on a tearsetting daily records for six straight weeks. On Monday, the average price for a gallon of regular was 16 cents higher than the previous record for October 1st set back in 2008. And last month, the nationwide average stood at $3.83 a gallonthe highest ever for September.

A spokesman says prices have declined only a few pennies from their summertime highs.

The Triple-A report comes on the heels of the government‘s latest data on consumer spending. The Commerce Department said last week that the big spending boost in August came largely through more expensive pump prices.

Pricey gas is exactly why I downsized last spring. I’m driving a smaller car these days and its gas mileage now is better than ever. It’s just too bad it took a few visits to the dealer to get it there.

I started having problems with my little blue Nissan Versa near the end of August. Actually, merely saying it was having “problems” doesn’t do justice to what was happening. My car was acting more like a little kid on a sugar high.

It seemed as if its brain couldn’t figure out which gear to be in. It revved up and down so fast it was like having the Tasmanian Devil under the hood. And, then the gas pedal would not respond, even if I stomped on it.

These problems cropped up intermittently. And, on a couple of occasions, I was afraid I’d have to make like Fred Flintstone and stick my feet through the floorboards just to get enough forward motion to steer safely out of traffic.

The dealer initially told me that it had a bad catalytic converter. I was skeptical. Catalytic converters aren’t supposed to go bad on cars with just 26,000 miles on them. But as it was still under warranty, and therefore no strain on my wallet, I agreed to have it replaced.

I was right to be leery. The following week I was back complaining about the same trouble. Only this time, they couldn’t find anything wrong. After a couple of days, they released the car back to me.

I was beginning to fear that I had a lemon on my hands, especially when it acted up within 20 minutes after leaving the dealership. It almost left me stranded on the interstate and wouldn’t even start the next day.

It was back to the dealer once more. Only this time, my car had to be towed there.

In the end, the catalytic converter diagnosis turned out to be a symptom. The real cause of my car’s trouble was a loose ground wire, which was causing the engine to repeatedly backfire – enough to KO the converter, which had to be replaced … again.

I’ve had my car back for a couple of weeks now and it’s exhibiting no sign of its earlier trouble. As a matter of fact, it’s running great and getting better gas mileage now than it did when I drove it off the lot in May.

Back then, it was getting about what Nissan said it would – around 37 mpg. Now, I’m consistently squeezing out about 44 mpg.

Quite an improvement and a nice reward for all the trouble it put me through last month. But if gas prices get any higher, I might have to start commuting to my job in Washington, D.C. on a scooter.

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