Gas Savers: Myths and Secrets

Our love affair with the car is no longer a cheap date considering today's high gas prices. But are there secrets out there that would allow you to get more miles for your money?

Plenty of companies claim if you just buy their products, you'll save on gas.

The infomercial for the Tornado Fuel Saver says "its fast and easy installation can save you up to $20, $40, even $60 a month at the gas pump."

The company's president, Jay Kim, appears in his own infomercials to plug the Tornado. Kim says scientific tests, including some done by ABC affiliates, prove that his product works, but other experts say those road tests don't mean anything. According to Kim, he's sold 100,000 of these products.

"People put the Tornado in, they are so happy with the product, they tell a friend," Kim says. "So I'm very confident that [the] product works."

But Consumer Reports disagrees. At its test track in Connecticut, it did road tests and found the Tornado didn't save gas.

"During those tests, we splice a fuel meter into the line, run them through very strict tests, so we really get to know whether these things work or they don't," says David Champion, director of automobile testing.

"We tested it on two cars, [it] made no difference at all."

But Kim still stands by his product.

"I think that someone made a mistake," Kim says.

The tests that Kim is referring to, he says, are like "actual real-life, real-on-the-road testing" that came from the ECOlogic Engine Testing Laboratories.

But we spoke with ECOlogic, and the man who signed off on the test, Donel Olson, says he's sorry that it has his signature on it.

Kim maintains, "Tornado works. That is the bottom line."

Platinum Gas Saver

Another product, the Platinum Gas Saver, guarantees a 22 percent savings on gas.

It's yet another product that Champion has doubts about.

"We tested it on two cars, made no difference at all," he says.

Joel Robinson invented the Platinum Gas Saver, which he sells for about $200.

We told him that Consumer Reports tested his Platinum Gas Saver on two vehicles.

Robinson's reaction: "Well, two means nothing. We can show you in our own test data. … I can show you two vehicles. One that got 12 percent worse and one that only improved by 7 percent. But if you take all 42 vehicles, what you see is an improvement of between 20 and 28 percent."

Using data from that test done more than 20 years ago, Robinson kept the government from shutting his business down. The Environmental Protection Agency later ran tests and now says the product doesn't work.

Robinson questioned just how valid the EPA's test is.

"The EPA test is done in a laboratory," Robinson says. "The vehicle sits there on the floor, and the rear wheels are rotating on cylinders.

"There's no road vibration given to our dispenser," he adds. "Therefore, no platinum is going to get dispensed. Therefore, I'm not surprised they wouldn't see any results, even if they did a test."

Robinson defends his product, saying, "Obviously, what we're doing is obviously scientifically and testwise correct."

But if his device works so well, then why after 25 years isn't everybody buying it and saving all this money?

His explanation: "We have three vested interests who don't like us: the oil companies, the car companies, because we double engine life, and the cigarette companies, because I was involved in the first litigation that they lost."

But what do cigarette companies have to do with this?

"They don't like me," Robinson says. "They make life very difficult for us."

America's official testing agency for gas-saving devices is the Environmental Protection Agency. It has tested 109 so-called gas savers.

"The devices and the additives that we have tested just don't work," says Margo Oge, director of the EPA's office of transportation and air quality. "We have been doing it for 35 years, and we have seen pretty much everything that you can imagine."

Ways to Save

This is not to say there's nothing you can do to save on gas.

Some NASCAR fans told us they use upper-grade gas because they say it gives them a little bit better mileage, more power and a cleaner engine.

But that's a myth, one of many debunked in "20/20's" new book, "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity."

Lots of people are fooled. Just this week, cops arrested eight men for allegedly passing off regular gas as premium at New York gas stations. They were caught only because investigators wiretapped the suspects -- the customers never noticed enough to complain.

Some older cars need higher octane. And cars with high-compression, high-revving engines need higher octane gas to run smoothly. But most don't.

Check your owner's manual -- 90 percent of today's new cars have low-compression engines. They don't need high-octane gas, and you're wasting your money if you buy it.

Now once you've figured out which octane to buy, does the brand matter? No. All the gas, brand name and no name, comes from the same refineries.

Even NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson knows the truth. "It's a myth, you don't need the name-brand stuff."

And, whatever gas you use, here are some tips from Consumer Reports:

Make sure your tires are properly inflated. One that's low on air uses more energy to push the car down the road.

Roll the windows down -- turn off the air conditioner. Some people believe that at highway speeds, there's so much drag from an open window that you'd save gas by putting the windows up and using the air conditioner. But that's a myth. Consumer Reports ran tests and found that at any speed, using the air conditioner burns more gas.

Slow down. Don't accelerate suddenly. You save the most gas by driving smoothly.