With the price of fuel increasing almost daily, we’ve had a lot of people asking how they can use less fuel driving and get more miles for their money.
There isn’t a magic solution for using less fuel. It’s all about making lots of little savings that combine to result in more miles per gallon.
The most important factor is how you drive
It sounds obvious but tear around like a boy racer and you’ll use more fuel than if you drive more mellowly. Accelerate gently: the harder you press the accelerator, the more fuel will flow into the engine.
When the engine reaches around 2000 revs, expert drivers say you should change gear. This will help to ensure you’re not in too high a gear. Remember, the faster the engine is revving the more fuel it will use.
Momentum is your friend
Getting a car going is what uses all the fuel. They’re big, heavy lumps and moving off from a standstill requires a lot of energy. And that’s where momentum comes in. The more you can use it, the better. Look as far up the road as you can to see what the traffic’s doing. If it’s come to a halt, stop accelerating.
By the time you reach the stopped cars, they might have moved off and you’ll use less fuel accelerating back up to speed, even from say 10mph, than you would if you roar up to them and then have to get moving from standstill.
Pump up your tyres
The firmer tyres are, the less fuel you’ll use because what’s called the rolling resistance will be reduced. This is the energy that’s needed to get and keep the tyre going round.
Have a look in your car’s user manual, or on the graphic behind the fuel filler flap or on the door pillar. These will show the ideal tyre pressures depending on how loaded up the car is. There may also be tyre pressures for saving fuel. These will be higher. It might mean the ride over bumps isn’t quite as comfy but you’ll save fuel.
Keep your cool
The best way to keep cool depends how fast you’re going. The Society of Automotive Engineers in the US found that below 45mph, having the windows open uses less fuel than air con.
But if you’re going faster than that, it says the extra drag caused by the open windows outweighs the fuel that air con uses.
Service your car
The better serviced a car is, the less fuel it will use. As engine oil ages, its lubrication properties begin to break down. Have a car serviced when the manufacturers say and it’s not only less likely to break down, it’s also more likely to run more efficiently and therefore economically.
Be a weight watcher
The less mass an engine has to move around, the less energy it’ll use. Car makers spend millions shaving grams off the weight of cars. Then we fill them with mouldy gym kit, golf clubs and things we’re meaning to take to the tip.
Take out any unused clobber and you’ll reduce the car’s weight and save yourself money. That also goes for filling with fuel. Liquid has a weight so if you’re carrying less fuel, you’ll need less fuel to haul it around.
That said, buying small amounts of fuel at the moment is a risky business: the fuel price might well have gone up when you come to buy your next half tank!
By John Price, a member of Green Flag’s automotive technical support team