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How to improve fuel economy

Looking to improve fuel efficiency? Try these simple tips and see an immediate difference in mileage

Rising fuel costs doesn't necessarily mean spending more on filling up your car's tank. A few simple ways can improve the fuel efficiency and get more out of your car's fuel. These are 10 simple tips that can help you save some money.

As of the 28th September 2022, the price of fuel may start increasing. See what the reintroduction of the fuel excise tax means for fuel prices.

How much of an impact do fuel efficiency tips have?

SuggestionWhy it worksPossible fuel economy improvement
Pump up your tyresMaintaining your tyres at the correct air pressure can give you as much as a 3.3% fuel-usage improvement. You can check your owner's manual for the recommended pressure. Note that if you're going on a long motorway journey or carrying a lot of stuff there's a higher pressure rating you should use. Besides, properly inflated tyres will last longer and perform as designed in emergency maneuvers, wet conditions and braking.Up to 3.3%
Replace your air filterA car's engine is protected from airborne debris by a filter. Over time, dust and silt clog up the air filter, restricting the engine's airflow. This can cause an increase in fuel usage. Replacing the filter is a quick and cheap job, and could improve your fuel economy by up to 10%.Up to 10%
Use the throttle judiciouslyA car uses the most fuel under heavy acceleration. It is better to gather momentum slowly and maintain it. Avoid having a heavy right foot and remember hard braking shaves off speed, which is a waste of energy. Look far ahead and anticipate having to slow down. As a result, you could experience a 33% reduction in fuel use, especially on motorways.Up to 33%
Don't idleWhen your car is parked, with the engine running, you are achieving 0.0L/100km fuel economy! It's also illegal to leave a vehicle unattended with the engine running, so switch it off where possible to save fuel. Yes, an engine uses a slightly increased amount of fuel to restart, but sitting for 15 minutes without moving will burn an entire litre of fuel on some cars! Switching off also cuts your emissions, benefiting the environment and those around you.Up to 100%! When the engine is off, you use zero fuel.
Use air conditioning sparingly Did you know using climate control can cause you to burn 10% more fuel? For the best possible fuel economy, Holden recommends drivers favour using a higher fan-speed, rather than lower temperature settings. Also, if you're travelling below 64 km/h, try rolling down your windows instead. Above speeds of 72 km/h, air resistance makes air conditioning more economical.Up to 10%
Get into high gearIf your car has a manual gearbox, use higher gears wherever possible. Higher gears stress the engine less and allow it to work at lower revs. In an automatic car, easing up on the throttle will trigger the gearbox to change up to a higher gear.A car is at its most efficient in top gear.
Use cruise controlBecause cruise control can minutely adjust the throttle with more care than a human driver, Holden suggests you should use it where possible. It'll also prevent you from speeding. If you have a car with an economy mode, use it.8-16%, depending on vehicle size.

10 fuel saving tips

The tricks above can have a significant impact on your fuel economy, but you might want to take your savings further. Here are our top 10 fuel saving tips.

🚙 Travel light

Air resistance is a drag, and an overloaded car should also be a weight on your mind when it’s costing you money.

1. Empty the car

If your car has turned into a storage closet it’s time to empty it out. Books, tools, clothing, full water bottles and other items that might hang around in your car can add up to a significant weight increase.

2. Remove the roof rack when not in use

The same goes for bike racks, trailer attachments and similar. They add to the weight, but the air resistance is often a bigger concern. Even aerodynamic roof racks can’t do much to overcome this.

3. Close the windows

Thanks to reduced drag, closed windows are the way to go. Using the air-conditioning is typically more fuel efficient than having open windows at high speeds. The same goes for sunroofs.

⛽ Drive differently

The way you drive makes a considerable difference to how much petrol your car uses.

4. Use a higher gear

At 60km/h, a car can use 25% more fuel in third gear than in fifth. Where you see a “fuel efficient mode” type option in a car, one of the things it usually does it keep the car in a higher gear. You can do this yourself instead.

5. Switch off when not in use:

How long does the car have to be stopped before it’s more cost-effective to turn the engine off instead of idling? It depends on the vehicle, but the cut-off point is generally around 30 seconds.

6. Go easy

The harder your car has to work, the more petrol it uses. For more efficiency, try to imagine that your car is really out of shape and you don’t want it to break a sweat. Don’t make it sprint up hills and resist the urge to accelerate hard after red lights. Fuel efficiency also tops out at speeds of about 80 km/h, and extra speeds after this cost more gas.

7. Accelerate gradually, but not too slowly

Generally speaking, the ideal car acceleration is 80 km/h in about 15 to 20 seconds. Faster than this and your car is working harder than it needs to. Slower than this and your car is unnecessarily labouring away in an inefficient low gear.

8. Crawl to a stop

For ideal fuel efficiency, and terrible driving, you would never use the brakes at all and instead just coast to a gradual stop every time. Each tap on the brakes is gas money gone to waste, so the closer you can get to this ideal (while still driving safely and legally), the better

🔧 Check your tyres

There are countless ways to modify your car for marginally more efficiency and other aftermarket car parts which can make a difference, but many of the simplest and most effective methods revolve around the tyres.

9. Check your tyre pressure

Your tyre pressure should always be at least the manufacturer’s recommended amount. Anything less than this is simply wasteful. Keep a pressure gauge handy and get into the habit of checking regularly. Sometimes over-inflating your tyres can improve it marginally further, but this is a risk and is typically not worth the cost of extra tyre wear and tear.

10. Consider aftermarket low-resistance tyres

Car manufacturers often make low rolling resistance tyres, but these aren’t always included on a car. Specially low rolling resistance tyres can sometimes, but not always, pay for themselves over a car’s lifespan.

Holden's fuel-saving efforts

A few years ago we took the opportunity to speak with Holden's vehicle development manager Jeremy Tassone about the efforts that the now extinct automotive brand has put in to improve fuel economy and reduce the impact fuel costs have on a driver's wallet.

Picture: Shutterstock

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