If you’re a driver, fuel is likely to be one of your biggest weekly expenses. This is especially the case for those who use their car to commute, as clocking up the miles also means burning through fuel and your bank balance. The consumption of fuel is bad news for the planet too.
Unfortunately, you can’t do anything about the fluctuating and ever-rising cost of fuel, but you can change your driving habits so that your car uses less of it.
Here are our essential tips for eco-smart driving to cut your mileage and fuel bills down to size…
Speed is the most important factor affecting how much fuel you use when driving. If you were to slow down by just 10mph, your engine would use far less fuel.You’ll notice the biggest difference in fuel consumption when you’re travelling fast. The AA estimates that dropping from 80mph to 70mph on the motorway could cut fuel use by up to 25%. However, if you slow down from 70mph to 60mph on a smaller road, you’ll still use around 10% less fuel.
2. Read the road ahead
Smart, safe and sensible drivers will read the road ahead and anticipate any obstacles or changes that will mean they need to brake or accelerate. This is not only good for safety, as the driver has the longest possible time to react, but it’s also good for fuel economy.If you can avoid sharp braking and harsh acceleration, you can save a small fortune on fuel costs. If you notice other cars braking ahead of you early enough, you can take your foot off the accelerator and slow down gradually rather than slamming on the brakes closer to the obstruction.
Always maintain a safe following distance and give yourself plenty of clearance from the car in front. Look to the road ahead of you, as well as what’s immediately in front, looking out for traffic lights, slowed or stopped traffic and changes to the speed limit.
3. Go gently
While you’re anticipating the road ahead, you can start to practise another eco-driving technique. This is driving smoothly and gently. You should aim to get up to speed gradually, and start slowing down (by taking your foot off the accelerator) nice and early. Avoid braking hard for corners, slowing down gently instead ready to take the turn. It’s all about ‘easy does it’.
4. Make the most of momentum
Momentum is a fuel-saver’s best friend. With a few small changes to your driving habits, you can start making use of the natural momentum your car builds up as you drive. For example, accelerating a little before reaching a hill, using the extra momentum to get you over the top without having to rev the engine hard (which destroys fuel economy). Another example is easing off the accelerator when approaching traffic lights, rather than continuing to accelerate and braking when you get to the lights. You’ve built up momentum, so make use of it rather than your fuel for these moments. They all add up.
5. Get into a high gear quickly
It’s a good idea to get into a higher gear as soon as you can, speed and speed limit permitting. If you rev the engine too much before moving into a higher gear (some drivers wait to hear the ‘cue’ of the engine labouring before changing gears), this is terrible for fuel consumption.
6. Lighten the load
If you regularly carry lots of clutter in your boot, it’s time for a clear out. Unless you need it or it’s a car maintenance essential (for example, something you’d need in the case of a breakdown), then you shouldn’t be driving around with it. Even a few extra kilograms causes your engine to work harder and use more fuel.
The same goes for roof racks, bars and boxes. Instead of weight, these cause wind resistance or ‘drag’. This slows you down more than you’d think, causing the engine to use more fuel. In fact, the Energy Saving Trust estimates that an empty roof rack could create drag of up to 16% when driving at 75mph.
7. Turn off the AC
Not many people realise that air conditioning and other temperature controls actually use fuel. If you want to improve your fuel efficiency, then you need to switch that air conditioning off. Unless it’s a sweltering hot day and you really need it, leave it off and you’ll save fuel.
8. Maintain your tyres
Both over inflated and under inflated tyres can ruin your fuel economy, so it’s important to inflate them to the correct air pressures. This will depend on your car and the load you’re carrying, but you should be able to find all of this information in your vehicle handbook. And remember to choose the right tyres for the conditions.
If it’s time for new tyres, consider fuel efficiency tyres. These tyres, rated for fuel efficiency from A to F, require less energy (and therefore fuel) in order to roll.
9. Turn your engine off when stopped
If you’re parked and waiting for someone or stuck in traffic that isn’t moving, switch off your engine. An idling engine uses fuel, as well as contributing to local air pollution, so it’s good practice to switch it off if you’re stationary for 30 seconds or more.
10. Service your engine regularly
Regular servicing keeps your car in good condition, extends its working life and optimises fuel efficiency too. Maintain your engine properly and double check your vehicle handbook that you’re using the right engine oil.
11. Cut out the short journeys
Wherever possible, leave your car at home. Shorter journeys are not great for fuel efficiency, so if you can walk or take the bus rather than drive, you’ll save on fuel. If you do have a few trips to make, consider planning a round trip rather than doing each at separate times. Car engines use more fuel when they’re cold. Ultimately though, if you can use the car less and cut down on unnecessary driving – you’ll save money.
Taking tips like this on board should mean you’re filling up your tank less - which is good news for your bank balance and the environment.
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