How much do you spend on fuel each year? $4000? $5000? $6000?
No matter who you are or what you drive, there are heaps of little things you can do everyday to save big on fuel annually. And improve the fuel economy of your vehicle.
Keeping up the regular maintenance on your car is important for a million different reasons. But there are also a number of key things about your car's overall condition that have a direct effect on the rate by which it guzzles down fuel.
Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up, shall we?
Be sure that your tyres are always inflated to recommended pressures. Tyre pressure is important to fuel economy. When tyres are underinflated, more of their surface area is in contact with the road as you drive. This increases drag. Drag equals greater superfluous fuel consumption.
Are your brakes dragging?
Having your brakes correctly serviced and adjusted helps reduce resistance. It’s another reason why letting a qualified mechanic with specialist tools service your car can pay off in the long run.
Checking the tune
The engine is the heart of your car. So every effort should be made to keep it running healthy. A properly tuned engine uses less fuel, so be sure to change filters regularly. Clean the injectors (if your car is a few years old now) and have them serviced professionally.
An improperly tuned engine may ‘run rich’. Which is to say that it's running with more fuel than is required to keep that air/fuel ratio where it ought to be. This leads to a significant amount of unburnt fuel blowing out from your exhaust. And that’s like literally throwing money away.
You’ll also want to have the oil in your car changed regularly. Using the right grade of motor oil, of course. This will help keep all the internal moving components lubricated and free. When your engine is forced to work extra hard, it’s forced to use more fuel.
The fuel itself
Maintenance is just one part of the larger plan to save at the pump year round. For instance, did you know that when you buy your petrol can have a real impact how efficiently it will be consumed?
You’ll want to avoid filling up if the tanker is there dropping off fuel.
If there are any contaminants in the storage tanks, they usually sink to the bottom. When the incoming fuel stirs up the tank, it can increase the odds of you picking up dirty fuel. Which can lead to expensive problems down the road.
Fuel that’s been stored for long periods of time can also lose its punch, meaning your engine isn’t able to produce as much power as it should efficiently.
Don’t wait until your tank is empty, either.
If you find yourself desperate for a couple of quick litres, you’ll have to duck in the first servo you see. And that means being forced to pay whatever they’re asking.
If you’re travelling on or near a long stretch of highway, prices might be much higher than they would be in town. But what can you do?
How you drive
The way we drive can impact fuel economy in a big way too.
Avoid pushing down too hard on the accelerator. As tempting as it can be to hold down that pedal, this practice actually burns more fuel. Not less.
It’s also helpful to accelerate smoothly. And not brake excessively. By cruising at a constant speed, and sticking to the speed limit, you’ll naturally be burning through less fuel. Again, because there is less drag.
By leaving a safe distance between yourself and the traffic in front of you, you’ll be able to brake less often. And more gradually when you do have to. Fuel efficiency goes up when you make fewer sudden stops. Your brake pads will thank you, too.
Whenever possible, try and drive with the windows rolled up. Once more, drag is the culprit here. And yes it’s only a small difference, but everything helps. Open windows and sunroofs create wind resistance that adds dollars to your petrol bill.
The same goes for the air-con
Yes. There are summer days when the heat is just too much to comfortably bear. But whenever possible, leave the AC switched off. It may feel great, but it also burns through a serious amount of fuel.
We started with the tyres. And now we’ve worked our way to your vehicle’s roof.
What is all that junk up there? Roof racks. Push bikes. Cargo. That equipment can get real heavy. When your car’s roof has a bunch of stuff stacked on top of it, it directly affects fuel efficiency in two ways.
You guessed it. The first one is drag.
But all that added weight also puts an extra burden on the car. And to counter it, more fuel than normal is required to keep the vehicle moving. Fuel you wouldn’t have burned had you taken all that stuff down before pulling out of the driveway.
Try to avoid driving at peak hours if you can. Starting and stopping and starting again wastes fuel.
Doing the sums
How much are you spending on petrol each year?
More importantly, how much could you be saving?
The fuel economy guide below will let you match up what you spend per litre at the pump to the average economy you get out of your vehicle.
Where the two meet will give you your estimated yearly fuel costs based on travelling 20,000km per year.