Your car’s fuel economy is affected by more than just its engine. You, the driver can make a big difference, too. Here’s how
Using less fuel doesn’t only save you money – it also helps to reduce the amount of nasty gases coming out of your car's exhaust pipe, so you do less damage to the environment.
But you don’t have to buy a new hybrid or super-efficient diesel to reduce the amount of fuel you’re using. There are actually a lot of things you can do to make your existing car more efficient.
This is an area where it's always tempting to save money in the short term, but skipping or skimping on services could end up costing you more, not only in repair bills, but also at the fuel pumps. Regular servicing helps to keep all your car's mechanical components – especially its engine – working at peak efficiency, thereby saving fuel.
Check your tyres
Ensuring your tyres are in a good condition is always a good idea – for a number of reasons – but making sure they’re at the correct pressure is key. Not only do underinflated tyres affect your ability to brake and steer, but they also cause your car to use more fuel, as it takes more effort to turn them. So keeping them at the advised pressures is an excellent way to save dough.
Aerodynamics aren’t confined to the rarefied world of high-end motorsport – making sure your car is as slippery through the air as possible is a great way to make it more efficient. Remove roof boxes and roof racks from the car when you’re not using them and keep your windows shut – especially at high speeds. This reduces the car's drag, so the engine doesn’t have to work as hard to push it through the air and you use less fuel.
Put your car on a diet
Weight is another key factor affecting fuel efficiency – one of the most significant after your car's engine. Keeping a load of unnecessary weight in the car (such as sports equipment in the boot) can have a serious affect on your fuel use. Make sure you only ever take what you need for a trip, and take it out when you get back.
Switch off the engine
While many modern cars come with stop-start technology – a system that shuts the engine off when you’re stationary – it's still
not standard on all cars. Don’t be afraid to do it manually, however. If you’re going to be stopped at traffic lights for more than a few seconds, you’ll use less fuel by switching off until it's time to go again.
Sudden bursts of acceleration, sharp braking and heavy steering inputs not only cause expensive-to-replace parts to wear out faster: they also increase fuel consumption. Look as far ahead as possible and try to anticipate what's going to happen so you can react slowly and smoothly. Coming to a gentle stop at traffic lights is much more efficient than accelerating up to them and then slamming on the brakes at the last moment.
This is probably the easiest thing you can do to save fuel – especially on the motorway. Stick to the national speed limit (or lower) and you’ll find you use an awful lot less fuel than you would if you were cruising at 80mph, as even that extra 10mph demands a lot more work from the engine.
Use a higher gear
It's fairly common for drivers to stay in a low gear for too long. This causes the engine rev higher and use more fuel. If the car you’re driving is petrol, try to change up at around 2,500rpm (or around 2,000rpm in a diesel). Don’t change up too soon, either, though, as this also forces the engine to work harder and use more fuel. Nearly every new car sold these days has a shift indicator light on the dashboard that tells you when it's time to change gear.
Beware of power-hungry equipment
Certain pieces of kit in your car can seriously increase fuel consumption, so try to limit how much you use them. Air-conditioning, heated windscreens and demisters are the biggest culprits here, so try to avoid using them except when absolutely necessary. If it's hot, it's better to drive around with the windows open at low speeds, but you should close them and use the air-conditioning at higher speeds.
A coupe of don’ts…
Unless you have a very old car, coasting out of gear is no longer an effective way to save fuel. Try instead to coast to a stop in gear – dipping the clutch and going into neutral the last possible moment.
Modern engines don’t need to ‘warm up’ before you drive off, either. All this does is waste fuel. Cars warm up more effectively when being driven, too.
Category: Personal Finance