Fuel prices are at an all-time high and with uncertain economic times ahead we are unlikely to see much of an improvement in the short term. While there is not much to be done about that, there are plenty of things we can do about reducing our fuel consumption and lowering our expenses a bit.
Modern cars come with all sorts of amazing fuel economy claims and while they are definitely more fuel efficient than their predecessors, they don’t always tend to realise these figures in real-world driving scenarios. While that is a topic for another day, there are still a number of ways to reduce fuel consumption that can have you getting very close to those ambitious manufacturer claims.
Our essential fuel saving guidelines are not only for those with brand new cars either, applying these tips to just about anything equipped with an internal combustion engine will yield fuel economy benefits.
Driving around on the incorrect tyre pressures will not only harm your fuel consumption figures but it is dangerous too. Some motorists think that overinflating tyres will provide better fuel economy but whatever slight benefit you may gain is offset by the fact that they can overheat and lead to a blowout.
Underinflated tyres can also fail without warning and can detrimentally affect the car’s handling too. In both cases, the tread will wear unevenly which will mean more frequent tyre changes. Stick to the manufacturers recommended pressures, usually found on a panel fixed to the driver’s door frame.
Big wheels big bills
Large diameter alloys can make your car look great, but the wider, low-profile tyres will detrimentally affect the ride quality as well as increase the rolling resistance.
You guessed it, this all adds up to higher fuel consumption figures. Some manufacturers even list differing mpg figures for the same models with different size wheels.
Servicing and maintenance
Sticking to the manufacturers recommended service intervals will ensure that your car performs at its optimum efficiency.
Missing oil services, ignoring warning lights and fitting cheap non-OEM parts are only going to cost you more in the long run.
Resale values are also negatively affected by patchy service records so factor that into your calculations when thinking about delaying a visit to the garage. The older the car the more important regular servicing gets.
Remapping and other mods
The proliferation of turbocharged cars means that remapping has become a quick and relatively cheap way of boosting power levels.
Make sure you get it done at a reputable specialist as not all remaps are the same and engine damage is a real possibility if it is done incorrectly. Many companies claim that you will experience improved fuel consumption figures after a remap but that is only if you don’t make use of the extra power on offer.
Hardly the point then, is it? When it comes to modifications the engine itself, more often than not you will pay the penalty at the pumps for the additional power.
Roof racks, windows and wings
The faster you go the more wind resistance affects your fuel economy. Automakers spend millions on getting the drag coefficient as low as possible so driving around with the windows down and sunroofs open does not help.
Leaving your roof rack in place when you don’t need it. Fitting aftermarket wings and ‘aero’ add-ons is also a bad idea.
A heavy car uses more fuel than a light one. Common sense really but this still doesn’t stop people from driving around with unnecessary junk in their cars.
Golf bags, gym bags and all sorts of other non-essentials should be removed from the car when you don’t plan to use them. A lighter car also means better acceleration and braking performance too.
Air conditioning systems use a compressor that draws its power from the engine, every time you turn it on the car will need to work that bit harder.
You may notice the dip in power in small capacity engines but whatever their power and engine size, all cars will use more fuel while the air con is being used.
The right car for the job
If you are in the market for a new car, it is worth taking some time to choose one that will best suit your typical driving routes. For example, hybrids tend to perform best in city driving conditions, larger engined cars are more efficient on long motorway trips.
Small capacity hatchbacks will perform well on short runs but if you regularly do 100-mile motorway journeys then you may end up using more fuel than if you opted for a larger engine that would be less stressed at those speeds.
Diesels can deliver some of the best economy figures both in and out of town but they do require more frequent servicing and they may end up being legislated out of city centres in the near future too. Modern automatics, especially dual-clutch systems tend to offer better economy figures than manuals too and they make driving in traffic far less strenuous.
Once you have picked the right car you will still need to drive it in a conservative manner if you are to benefit from any potential fuel economy gains.
Aggressive acceleration and braking is clearly not a good idea and frequent short trips are also bad for both the car and your fuel economy. Of all the factors here, regular careful driving is perhaps the one thing that will yield the best results.
Cruise control is fitted to just about every new car these days and while it is useful on the motorway and can help you avoid speeding fines, it can also increase your fuel consumption.
The reason for this is that most systems gently apply the brakes on downhills and in the case of automatics, may change down a gear before you might have done on an incline.
Even autonomous cruise control systems that adjust for the traffic ahead are more abrupt in their responses than you would be.
Sitting in traffic is both frustrating and a waste of fuel so it is always a good idea to check your route before heading off.
Some modern cars have smart navigation systems that can reroute you if there is an accident or traffic on your current path. If you don’t happen to have a fancy new car thus equipped, a smart phone can do much the same thing.