Drive Easy

The price of gas may have eased off lately, but the overall trend is, as ever, inching up. Here are some tips to reduce your car’s fuel consumption, and some of the pain of topping up.

Keep your tyres properly inflated.

We all know how much easier it is to push a wheel barrow full of cement when the tyre is good and hard. Just as with the wheel barrow, your car has a much easier time running on properly inflated tyres; don’t over-do it though, and over inflate them. Tyres that are too hard can offer less traction, and will wear more quickly.

Wind up your windows.

Extra drag caused by open windows (not to mention roof rack, attached bicycles etc.) can sip away at your fuel, even at suburban speeds.
Open your windows when you’re stopped to release heat from the cabin if you like, but keep them closed and rely on the ventilation system while on the move.
Air conditioning saps a lot of power from the engine; so once you’re comfortable, remember to turn it off.

Avoid the cruise control.

Cruise control can do a very clever job of maintaining a set speed, but it’s not smart enough to look and plan ahead. You might encounter a short steep hill and hold your current accelerator position, letting the speed bleed of slightly and then recover as you crest the hill.
The cruise control, on the other hand, will just blindly sense the added load and plant its “foot” to maintain the current speed.

Consolidate your journeys.

Don’t make three trips to the supermarket this week. Stock up for the whole week with just one visit, and while you’re there, run as many errands as you can within walking distance, by walking! On your way somewhere? Where can you stop on the way to avoid special trips?

Don’t labour your engine.

You want to keep your engine revving as slowly as possible as a general rule, but when it’s called upon to do some real work, like passing a slow vehicle on a hill, that’s the time to change down a gear or two and let it spin more freely; imagine you’re pushing that heavy barrow up a steep incline — it takes less puff to take more and smaller steps (higher revs) as opposed to fewer and longer strides (lower revs). Your engine will gulp less fuel and be under less strain.

Keep looking far ahead.

Every time you brake and scrub off speed, you need to accelerate again to get the speed back; it’s that acceleration that really burns through the fuel.
If you notice that the cars one block ahead of you are stopped, but you know they’ll be moving off soon, try easing off your speed in such a way that when you arrive the cars ahead are already moving away, then with just a touch of throttle you’re back in the flow.
Be mindful though, not to aggravate those following you with your fuel saving antics.

Don’t burn fuel when you’re not using it.

If you’re familiar with the pattern of traffic lights on your daily commute and you know you’ll be stopped at this point for about three minutes, go ahead and switch off. Remember: While you’re stopped you’re getting ZERO miles per gallon. Just remember to switch on again in time for when the lights change in your favor.

The balsa wood accelerator.

Be gentle with your gas pedal. Imagine it will break if you’re too abrupt with it, and as often as you can — practice easing off on the gas; you’ll be surprised how little your acceleration or speed will decrease with less pressure on the pedal.

Keep your weight down.

Look around you. What are you carrying in the car that doesn’t need to be there. The umbrella in summer? The picnic blanket in the middle of the week? Every extra item needs a certain amount of fuel in order to transport it. That includes the fuel itself.
Do you really need your tank to be topped off all the time when during the course of a typical month you’re never more than ten minutes from a service station? Try running on a half a tank, or even a quarter?
Don’t be nervous about this; most modern cars have plenty of reserve, even below the lowest mark on the fuel gauge.

Breathing and burning.

When was the last time you replaced your car’s air, fuel and oil filters; or checked the condition of your spark plugs. If these items are freshly installed and properly adjusted, this simple maintenance regime alone can bring big savings at the pump.

Finally: Run your car like an airline!

No-one winces more at the price of fuel than the airlines; it’s their biggest single operational expense. So they toss out in-flight meals and magazines and reduce baggage allowances, all to save weight. They fly more direct routes in cleaner, newer more fuel efficient and appropriately sized aircraft, less often and at reduced speed. These are all things we can be doing with our cars.
Start by topping off your tank, then use some of these techniques and top off your tank again; recording the litres required and distance covered — to ascertain your true consumption.
As your technique, and consumption improves, you’ll find that frugality can also be fun!