When it comes to life’s expenses, cars usually feature at the pointy end. To buy one involves parting with a hefty chunk of change, and then there’s the cost of maintenance to go with it. A lot of these expenses we can’t do much about – sometimes components simply need replacing – but there is one area where we can mitigate the hip-pocket pain.
In Australia, the average passenger car churns through 1,366 litres of fuel every year. Now, we can’t avoid the bowser entirely, but we can do things to ensure that we fill up less frequently. Increasing your fuel efficiency is a great way to keep on top of your car’s running costs.
Here’s what you can do.
Never skip the warm-up
Before you even take off, there’s something you can do to make your car more fuel efficient. Sit there and do nothing. A properly warmed engine is more efficient than a cold one, so giving it a few minutes to limber up will save you in the long run. But this doesn’t have to be dead time: fire off some last-minute emails, read a book, meditate. Just keep your foot off the gas.
Be the tortoise, not the hare
How you drive has a massive impact on fuel efficiency. Accelerating hard isn’t doing your wallet any favours, and it’s down to high school physics. The faster you take off, the greater the drag your engine has to work against, causing it to suck up more fuel. But it isn’t just about speed.
Braking quickly is also thirsty work. Fighting against the kinetic energy of your car and bringing it to a halt is what brakes are there for, but it pays to make their life easier. You’ll save far more fuel if you start braking much sooner and more gently, rather than racing to within ten metres of the lights and slamming both feet on the brakes.
It’s a tenet of good driving habits: always look ahead and anticipate. Not only does this make you a safer driver, but a richer one too.
Tyre pressure matters
In so many ways. Tyres operating at their recommended pressure are able to do their job better – keeping you stuck to the road. Not only does it make them safer, but optimally inflated tyres are also cheaper to run. Physics again. Under-inflated tyres have a bigger footprint (tyre print?), meaning more rubber is in contact with the road, which leads to greater friction and more power needed to get them rolling.
Check out our blog, ‘5 Reasons Why Correct Tyre Pressure Matters’, to learn more.
Granted, this isn’t always within your power. We’d suggest avoiding peak hour, but peak hour seems to have extended to the entire week these days (unless your city is in a lockdown; silver linings). When you can, though, try to avoid traffic. An idling car consumes more fuel than you’d think. If you’re going to be stuck on the same patch of bitumen for several minutes, turn the engine off. More fuel for you, and less harmful emissions for the environment.
Less baggage means greater fuel efficiency
In some ways, cars are just like us. Walking to the supermarket is a lot easier than walking back. Carrying bags of groceries requires us to burn more energy and fatigue more quickly. Load a car up and it responds in the same way. It may be able to maintain the same speeds, but not the same fuel efficiency.
Obviously, there will be times when you need to transport heavy items, or perhaps you’re going on a road trip with luggage and camping supplies. If you can’t avoid carrying a lot of stuff, then try to keep as much of it within the cabin as possible. Things like roof racks add drag, which decreases fuel efficiency.
Other tips for fuel efficiency
Always turn left
You read that right. FedEx do it (well, they turn right when they’re in the US). Right turns in Australia mean giving way to both lanes of traffic, which means more idle time. Believe it or not, going a few hundred metres out of the way to keep turning left can actually save fuel when city driving.
Plan your trips
Instead of taking the car out on multiple errands, try to combine them in one trip. Not always possible and requires foresight, which is a rare gift.
AC isn’t always the enemy
The air conditioner cops a lot of heat when it comes to fuel efficiency. Granted, at slower speeds, keeping the windows down and the AC off will save fuel. But travelling at highway speeds with the windows down actually creates a lot of drag and burns through more fuel than if you had the AC on. So, when next you take off on a road trip, don’t feel guilty about keeping the windows up and the AC cranked on those long stretches of bitumen.