10 ways to get better fuel economy on your car

Try these tips to see an immediate difference in mileage.

With rising fuel costs and our increasing reliance on cars, it’s never been more important to know how to improve your car’s fuel economy. Luckily, there are a few simple ways you can do this. These tips are tried and tested and will let you see an immediate improvement in your car’s fuel efficiency.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

Picture: Shutterstock

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