Fuel prices are a bit insane right now and they’re not likely to come back down for a while. Maybe now is a good time to take a look at how you may be using more fuel than you need to, and how you could improve your fuel usage figures.
At Tyre Review, we’re not just into tyres. Many of our team love cars, bikes, boats and motor vehicles in general, and we’re always looking to save a bit of coin while enjoying our hobbies.
Come along for a sedate ride while we calmly explain how we get the most from a tank of fuel, because, as you probably already know, speeding burns more fuel.
Not every tip is applicable in every situation, but by using your common sense and a few tips here and there, we’re confident that most drivers can easily get 10-15% more from a tank. It’s a big call, but we’re pretty cocky like that.
1: Accelerate Smoothly & Efficiently.
Going easy with your right foot is going to be the quickest (slowest?) and the easiest way to improve fuel economy. It’s not uncommon for even a normally efficient car to spike above 50 litres per 100kms when burying the foot to get away from traffic lights.
Smooth acceleration is the name of the game here, obviously taking this to the extreme and holding up traffic while you doddle up to the speed limit wouldn’t be very cool of you.
When driving, you’ll get a much better average fuel usage by choosing routes without start/stop traffic. Even vehicles with fancy start-stop technology can’t escape the fact that it takes a lot of energy to get a vehicle up to speed and not much at all to maintain speed.
2: Choose the Right Gear.
Hitting the rev limiter in every single gear isn’t a way to get great fuel economy (just ask anyone with a Honda Civic or Nissan 350z), but neither is coasting around at too-low an RPM while your vehicle is in a high gear. This is typically an issue that only affects manual cars but it’s possible to force some automatic vehicles to be in the wrong gear for the task at hand too.
Every engine has a preferred power band, which is a certain range of RPMs where the engine has peak performance and efficiency. In some situations, downshifting into a lower gear and using less throttle at a higher RPM will provide benefits when it comes to both avoiding mechanical wear and tear, and using less fuel.
Pro tip: If you have your right foot firmly on the pedal and you’re not going any faster, it’s time to go down a gear or two and try again.
Start-stop traffic is going to severely hamper your economical driving efforts.
3: Don’t Use Your Brakes.
Alright, we know how this sounds, but hear us out. Just like acceleration, consider your braking technique to maximise fuel efficiently. Now, braking itself doesn’t use any fuel, but if you’re braking it means you’ve used more fuel than needed getting up to a higher speed than you needed to and just converting the excess into brake heat.
If you drive in such a way that means you coast down to a slower speed whenever possible, you’re going to really help your fuel economy figures.
4: Combine Errands
Vehicles will use a fair whack more fuel when they’re cold, in an attempt to heat up emissions control equipment. If you combine errands so you use your vehicle on and off for a few hours, rather than several 5 minute trips hours apart, you’ll see more kms from a tank.
Granted, this tip can be very difficult to follow depending on your lifestyle. So, moving on!
As a side note, engine oil is designed to lubricate your engine best when it is up to temperature. Less time driving your vehicle with a cold engine is better for the environment and your wallet.
5: Look After Your Vehicle
The first few tips have all revolved around your habits as a driver, but there are many items on your car that can directly affect fuel economy, and we’re not talking about negligible amounts either.
Service items such as spark plugs, filters, thermostats, temperature sensors, and more can all drastically affect your fuel economy if they’re in bad condition and haven’t been inspected.
Ensure your vehicle is up to date with its logbook servicing and has periodic inspections from a qualified mechanic to make sure it’s running in tip-top shape.
Also, run the recommended grade of fuel in your vehicle. It’s especially tempting to use a cheaper grade of fuel while prices are so high, but you risk engine knocking, putting your vehicle into limp mode or worse still, catastrophic engine damage. Run the grade fuel your vehicle was designed for. The fuel information for your vehicle will be in the owners manual, and sometimes on a small sticker inside the fuel door.
While we’re discussing fuel, in Australia, fuels such as 91 are specified to include a maximum of 150 parts per million (ppm) of sulphur, while 95 and 98 specify a maximum of 50ppm sulphur. This is in stark contrast to areas like the United States and many European countries where the maximum sulphur content is 10ppm. Sulphur in fuel is a problem, as it will create small quantities of sulphuric acid inside your engine causing corrosion and damage over the long term, and harmful emissions.
Basically, Australian fuel would be considered ‘sour’ and unfit for use in many areas of the world. Our fuel is already low quality, don’t put even lower quality fuel in your vehicle that your manufacturer recommends. Keep an eye out for a future article here on what different ratings on fuel mean and how they affect your vehicle.
6: Maintain Tyre Pressure and Wheel Alignment
Incorrectly inflated tyres are the most common cause of fuel economy issues, and for every 1 psi under pressure you are, causes you to use around 0.5% more fuel.
In most situations, relying on your vehicle manufacturers recommended tyre pressures will get you pretty close to the ideal specifications.
In some cases if you’re carrying heavy loads, it’s worth putting a few extra psi into your rear tyres to give them a helping hand.
If you’re already following all the tips so far, we’d be remiss not to mention getting a wheel alignment. Incorrect toe settings would be the biggest cause of poor economy as your tyres are fighting against each other, causing excessive drag.
Accurate tyre pressures and a good wheel alignment can save up to 10% on fuel costs
7: Don’t Use Air Conditioning, If You Can Help It.
In almost all modern vehicles, the air conditioning compressor runs directly off the engine and requires about 3-5 horsepower to drive. If you’re just puttering around town at slow speeds, turn the AC off and enjoy having the windows down. At medium speeds or higher, the wind drag from the open windows will be more than the AC needs to run and you’re getting off with your windows up, AC blasting.
8: Remove Unnecessary Items from Your Car.
We’re fully aware these tips are getting more and more banal as we get on in this article but we promise you, any combination of these tips will improve your fuel economy.
Get rid of all the junk in your trunk, seriously. Carting around extra stuff you don’t actually need in your car is hurting your fuel economy more than you think. Non-essential tools, sports equipment, that roof top tent you use once a year. Get rid of it.
No need to take this to the extreme and drive a fully stripped out race car though, it makes sense to keep your spare tyre, first aid kit and manufacturers tool kit in your vehicle at all times.
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