The cost of fuel for cars and vehicles just seems to keep heading skywards. But there are some simple things you can do to save money on fuel costs. Follow these tips to help make your car go further between fills at the petrol pump.
1. Drive economically
Smart driving techniques and a little planning can make a big difference to how much fuel you use.
Driving economically around town
You’ll use less fuel and save money if you:
- drive smoothly, look ahead in traffic and try to maintain a steady speed – the more you push your accelerator, the more petrol you’ll use
- use the gearbox sensibly – driving in a lower gear than necessary and revving the engine hard wastes fuel, so change up through the gears as soon as practical, but not so the engine labours
- if you drive an automatic, ease back slightly on the accelerator once the car has gained sufficient speed – the automatic gearbox will shift up through the gears more quickly
- avoid peak hour and other heavy traffic where possible – see if you can reschedule your trip to an earlier or later time, or use an alternative route to avoid congestion
- avoid engine idling for long periods, where possible – if you expect a lengthy delay switch off the engine
Driving economically on the freeway
You’ll use less fuel and save money if you:
- drive more slowly – travelling at 90 km/h rather than 110 km/h will reduce fuel use by up to 25%
- if your car is fitted with a cruise control, using it during highway driving will help to maintain a steadier cruising speed, and smoother driving saves fuel
- use your car’s air conditioner sparingly
- if your car doesn’t have air conditioning, keep the windows up and use the ventilation system when travelling over about 50 km/h - travelling with the windows down over 50 km/h increases the car’s aerodynamic drag
- if your car’s auto has power and economy modes – you may need to check your owner’s handbook – use the economy mode to ensure the transmission up-shifts earlier
Sensible driving techniques also help reduce wear and tear on your car’s brakes, tyres and the other mechanical parts. So you’ll save money on running costs for your vehicle as well as on fuel.
2. Care for your car and save
Proper servicing and maintenance of your car will help to ensure its longevity and reliability. It will also help to keep it running at its most efficient: that means less fuel use and less air pollution.
To care for your car, it’s important to:
- keep the engine correctly tuned
- keep filters in good condition
- keep the fuel and ignition systems operating correctly
- regularly change the engine oil using the correct grade of oil as recommended by the manufacturer
3. Inflate tyres correctly
Keeping the tyres correctly inflated is vital, too. Tyres that are low on air pressure have greater rolling resistance. That means your car’s engine works harder, using more fuel.
Correct tyre pressures will also ensure safer, more secure handling and better tyre life. Check your tyre pressures once a week when they are cold.
You can find the correct tyre pressures for your vehicle in the owner’s handbook and on the tyre placard (normally found on the inside of the glove box door, on the driver’s door opening or fuel filler flap). These are the minimum tyre pressures.
Setting the pressures slightly higher will normally improve both fuel economy and vehicle handling.
4. Check the wheel alignment
Your car will also be more energy efficient if the wheel alignment is correctly set and the brakes aren’t dragging. Again it’s a case of less rolling resistance.
Carrying unnecessary weight around in the car also increases fuel use. Take a look in your car and see if it has become a mobile storage cupboard for things such as your golf clubs, heavy toolboxes and other assorted junk. A clean out might be in order for the sake of your wallet.
Attachments to the outside of the car, such as roof racks, increase wind resistance and thus fuel consumption. Removing roof racks and the like when not in use helps fuel economy. For the same reasons, load roof racks carefully to help minimise wind resistance.
5. Use your car less
The less you use the car, the less fuel used. So it’s worth considering alternatives such as public transport, car pooling, walking or riding a bike. Ask yourself if the trip is really necessary. If you must use your car, try to combine a few smaller trips into one. A cold engine is less fuel-efficient and emits more pollutants than a warm engine, so several shorter trips will use more fuel than one longer trip.
Also, if you have more than one car, save fuel and use the smaller more fuel efficient one, when practical.