How to Drive Economically
Posted on 13 March 2012
Ford Fiesta Econetic
The price of petrol or diesel and the cost to fill the fuel tank has become a daily talking point. Although price increases have occurred fairly regularly over the years, there has been an occasional short-term relief when barrel prices were lower, or the government of the day reduced fuel duty.
There are many things a driver can do in order to maximise the amount of miles they achieve from a tank full of fuel. Some items relate to the maintenance of the vehicle, whilst others are affected by how the car is driven. All drivers want their fuel to last as long as possible and by incorporating a few simple driving techniques this should assist.
It is essential for the vehicle to have a regular service, and this should be done by the service department from where the car was purchased. Those people who didn’t buy their vehicle from a dealership should find a reliable local garage. It is sensible to ask friends and relations if they can recommend a good garage with a reputation for high quality workmanship, and also for looking after their customers.
Unless you are a qualified mechanic don’t attempt to save money by servicing the car yourself. Don’t forget that a car can be a lethal weapon, and if the job isn’t completed correctly there may be dangerous consequences for other vehicles and their passengers. There is also a possibility that the vehicle insurance may be invalid.
Modern vehicles have computerised systems which allow for longer intervals between services. Items such as spark plugs don’t now require changing after 10,000 miles, and depending on the manufacturer, may have a lifespan of some 30,000 to 50,000 miles. As the time between services is longer, it is essential to make the appointment for the service as soon as it is due.
The individual methods to conserve fuel may appear a little unnecessary. However, each separate item will marginally increase the miles which can be travelled on a tank of petrol and overall this can add up to be a substantial amount.
Emergency Kit for Poor Weather
Don’t fill the boot of the car with lots of extra items which you don’t use on a regular basis. There are specific things which are necessary and can include a breakdown kit which is extremely helpful in an emergency. During the winter months it is essential to carry additional items including shovel, blankets, a flask with hot drink and a torch, particularly if you have a long journey. Do remember to let other people know your route and ensure that the mobile phone is fully charged. If the travelling conditions are poor try to re-arrange your trip until another day, but if you must go out and the weather deteriorates, try to find somewhere to park, or stay until conditions improve. Do keep in touch with your family so that they know that you are safe.
In this instance it’s the car which probably needs to lose weight rather than the driver – although if it’s time for a diet remember that the less weight being carried in the car, the further the fuel will go.
Don’t carry lots of things in the boot every day as this will cost money. Those people who enjoy a round of golf, put your clubs and bag in the car before your game, and remove them at the end of the day. Every additional 50kg weight carried in the car will reduce the distance you can travel by about four per cent.
Try not to leave loose items rolling around in the car as this can be distracting for the driver and may even cause an accident. Individual objects should be placed in a plastic box which makes them easier to find when required.
When the roof rack isn’t being used remember to remove it from the car. In the past few years roof racks have been designed to be much easier to take down. Driving around with the rack in place increases the wind drag over the vehicle which then reduces fuel economy. If you need the roof rack – perhaps when travelling on holiday – distribute the weight evenly across the rack.
Tailgates on Pick-up Trucks
Those people who regularly drive a pick-up truck will find that it is more fuel efficient if they drive the vehicle with the tailgate up. It is also a good habit to ensure that the tailgate is permanently left up.
It is really important for tyres to be inflated to the correct level. This is from a safety, as well as from a fuel efficiency point of view. When tyres are under-inflated they increase the consumption of fuel. There is less control when braking as the stopping distances are longer.
Driving on tyres which are under-inflated can cause the walls of the tyres to over-heat which may cause tyre failure and possibly blowouts when the car is travelling at speed. They can also wear out more quickly. Purchase good quality tyres as recommended by the garage because cheaper or remould tyres can be less well-made and may cost more in the long run.
Tyres, when they are correctly inflated, will last longer. The treads will grip to the road surface, making them safer in different weather conditions. They will also assist with the vehicle’s suspension which improves steering and braking.
It is estimated that nearly fifty per cent of vehicles on the roads have at least one tyre which isn’t properly inflated. Cars which have tyres at twenty pounds per square inch (psi) below the proper pressure may find that fuel efficiency is affected. This could be by as much as one mile for each gallon of fuel.
It is worth checking the tyre pressure each time you fill the car with petrol. It will only take a few minutes and may draw attention to a slow puncture in the tyre. The correct tyre pressure for the car will be stated in the handbook. Alternatively the many tyre specialists around will be happy to assist you to find out the correct tyre pressure for your vehicle.
It is important to ensure that you have the correct tyre for the car. Some models have a choice of tyre sizes, and each size of tyre may have a different pressure, so take care to check that the tyre pressure is accurate.
Although it isn’t necessary to know everything which goes on under the bonnet of the car relating to the engine, it is important for car owners and drivers to be aware of the basics, and can check for the straightforward items on a regular basis.
A simple routine carried out, perhaps once per week will help to make sure that the vehicle runs smoothly until its next scheduled service at the garage. It can be helpful to ask the garage or dealership where you bought your car to recommend a schedule of inspection which you can do. If you bought a second-hand car from a trusted garage they should also be delighted to assist you. It is important to stress that any simple maintenance checks carried out by you shouldn’t ever replace the scheduled service by a qualified mechanic.
Whenever the car doesn’t feel as responsive as usual or something doesn’t seem right, once you have done your usual checks and if nothing is obvious, immediately take the vehicle to the garage. It is better to have a mechanic check the car, rather than worrying about whether there is a problem. If the car isn’t performing properly there may be a loss of fuel economy, and parts may begin to wear out quicker than anticipated. It is preferable to spend a small amount now, than waiting until a scheduled service appointment, only to be told that there is a problem which, had you taken the car to them earlier, may have been a much smaller job.
You should always have the vehicle serviced according to the schedule in the handbook. This has come from the manufacturer and they know the length of time, or number of miles, at which a service is due. Those owners who have a very low mileage still need to ensure that their car is still serviced at least one a year.
Those people who have a heavier driving schedule will need to book the service according to the number of miles which is stated in the owner’s handbook, or service manual. If you are unsure when you should take the car for it service, just ring the garage and they will ask you to confirm the mileage showing on the vehicle. They will be able to check when the car had its last service – in fact they will have stamped the service manual. It is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to servicing the vehicle.
If you regularly tow a trailer or caravan, this will increase your fuel consumption and the car will probably need additional servicing because of the extra weight.
Stop, Look and Listen
Get to know your vehicle so that you’ll be aware if anything doesn’t seem as normal. Open the bonnet and check that there aren’t any loose wires. Always check the fluid levels including –
• Oil – this should be checked every week. When the engine is cold check the dipstick. If the oil level is very low, then there should be a warning light which shows on the dashboard. Different manufacturers suggest when the oil should be changed, and it is normal for the mechanic to change the oil as part of the service. It is possible to change the oil yourself, but unless you are competent it is preferable to leave it to the experts.
• Coolant system and Antifreeze – if the car engine is running at too high temperature this can result in losing up to fifteen per cent of the fuel efficiency. Coolant is a mixture of antifreeze and water and assists the engine to maintain its correct temperature in hot and cold conditions. The ratio of antifreeze to water is usually 50-50. It is straightforward to see the correct level in the reservoir and the liquid should always look clean. Check the light on the dashboard which will signal if the thermostat remains open or closed longer than normal and may cause the engine to overheat. If, after five minutes, even on a very cold day, there isn’t any heat coming from the heating system, there may be a problem with the thermostat. Make an appointment with the garage!
Other items to check when under the bonnet – Air Filter – a clean air filter will probably assist in fuel economy, as some experts suggest that having a dirty air filter may reduce the vehicle’s fuel economy by up to ten per cent.
Changing an air filter is straightforward and if you feel competent in dealing with this task it is worthwhile as it will help to keep the engine clean. A dirty air filter can reduce the air from reaching the engine which results in using additional fuel.
Unless you know exactly what you are doing it is probably not worth trying to check belt tensions. There are different belts which drive the water pump, air conditioning unit and power-steering pump and all of these will need to be tightened in accordance with the car manual. As this requires the use of a special measuring instrument, let the experts deal with it.
Whilst under the bonnet it is worth checking the Battery to confirm that there hasn’t been any corrosion of the cable terminals and that they are still clean.
Other Items to be Aware of When Driving
It is important to be aware of any problems with Brakes as this can be dangerous. If you notice anything strange with the brakes contact the garage immediately, as this is something best left to a qualified mechanic.
Do remember to release the handbrake when starting the car.
Other items requiring the attention of a specialist include Wheel Alignment and Tyre Balance as if these aren’t maintained correctly fuel efficiency will be impaired.
Plan Your Journey
If you usually follow the same route to and from work on a daily basis, and also make other journeys regularly, it should be fairly easy to ensure that you don’t need to make additional visits to the supermarket or other regular trips. Combine each journey so that the supermarket trip and perhaps dropping the children at school are planned within the same journey.
Making six short trips every day will cost considerably more than fitting all commitments into one to two journeys. A little planning should, hopefully, save quite a number of miles every week.
Try to make sure that the engine has warmed thoroughly during winter months. If only driving for a short distance, go to the furthest point first and then work your way back home calling in at shops as necessary. Should you use the car for work, plan the journey carefully to make sure that you take the easiest route.
Use the Most Economical Car
When one member of a family is going out, if they are fortunate enough to have more than one vehicle available, consider using the smaller or more economical car. Although driving a large, luxury model may be your personal choice, it can be more cost effective to utilise a small hatchback. Save the larger vehicle for when the whole family is going out, or the distance being travelled is a long one.
If you are travelling a journey on a regular basis, look to see if there is an alternative route which may avoid as many traffic lights, or is quieter so that it will not take as long to drive home. Sometimes the actual mileage may be slightly longer, but it may still be more economical to drive down that route.
It can save fuel if you are able to drive when others aren’t – in other words, if you are able to work flexitime so that you can avoid rush hours and many other commuters who are all driving the same route.
Listen to the local radio when driving so that you will be aware of any accidents or adverse weather conditions on your route, which will allow the opportunity to take a different route. During the winter months try to drive in the day when it is warmer than in the evening. Travelling conditions are also easier during the day.
It is better not to drive at all in poor weather conditions. Snow, hail, wind and driving rain really aren’t conducive for safe, economical driving. Ensure that you wear warm clothing in bad weather and if the journey is a long one, take spare clothes and emergency supplies. In the summer wear lighter clothes so that the air conditioning, which reduces fuel efficiency, can be used sparingly.
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Those people who live close together, work at the same company or another business nearby, and make the same journey on a regular basis, may be able to share a car on a regular basis. If four of you can do this, you will only need to drive your car to work for one week in every four. This will obviously reduce the amount of fuel needed if each of you pay for the fuel on the week when using your own car.
Whether you are able to travel to work by public transport obviously depends on where you live. Those people who live in a rural location probably won’t be able to find public transport that is available at commuter travelling times. It may be possible to take the car to a main bus route or to a railway station, and continue the daily journey from there.
Those people who have quite a distance to travel may be able to catch up with some paperwork whilst on the train, or read the paper or a book when travelling on a bus.
Those folk who only work a couple of miles from home may be able to cycle to work on days when the weather allows.
Simple Tips to Save Fuel
Make a conscious effort to drive carefully. Change gears smoothly and don’t accelerate too quickly. Even these suggestions can assist in making sure that when the car is filled with fuel it lasts as long as possible, with the driver getting additional miles for their outlay.
Only fill the tank when there is about twenty five per cent of fuel left in it. It is unnecessary to keep filling the tank when there is plenty of fuel already there. As each gallon of fuel weighs about six pounds, driving around with a full tank will reduce fuel efficiency.
There are exceptions to this rule – during winter months always ensure that there is plenty of fuel in the tank, and if you live in a rural location, always make sure that you carry sufficient fuel.
Put fuel in the tank when you pass your normal petrol station. Don’t make a special journey or go out of the way to fill the tank when it isn’t necessary.
A car with a manual gearbox uses less fuel than one with an automatic transmission. Driving sensibly can still maximise fuel efficiency. In a car with manual gears travel up through the gears as quickly as possible. It isn’t always essential to use every gear on every occasion. When driving in traffic and if the road ahead suddenly clears it is perfectly acceptable to change from second to fourth gear if the road conditions and your current speed is appropriate.
In a car with an automatic gearbox listen to the sounds as the car accelerates and reaches the top of one gear ratio before changing to another. Keep an eye on the tachometer and the rpm, as the higher the rpm the more fuel is being used.
Make sure that when you’re driving your foot doesn’t rest on the brake pedal. It can be a temptation to keep your foot there in order to be ready to brake when necessary, but even the lightest touch on the brake pedal will increase the amount of fuel you are using. It will also wear the brakes out more quickly.
Some Final Thoughts on How to Drive Economically
Whenever you are in the car, think about the best ways to conserve fuel. When the car is stationary at traffic lights or in a queue always put the gear into neutral. When moving forward after being at traffic lights don’t over accelerate. When you park the car switch the engine off as quickly as possible. Don’t drive round in a car park trying to find a space which is closest to the shops. Just find a space, park the car and walk the few additional yards.
Make sure that you always have the right cash for meters so that it is accessible when required. If you get a parking ticket whilst you run to the shops to get some change it isn’t the most economical way to save money.
Although the object of this article is to make sure that you are able to look after your vehicle to the best of your capacity, don’t try to over-reach yourself. Utilise the services of a qualified and experienced mechanic for servicing the vehicle and doing anything other than basic maintenance.
Drive carefully and consider fuel economy, but make sure that you still enjoy the journeys you make in your car.
Driving Economically will cost you less and help save the enviroment!
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