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Slashing the Cost of Running a Car

Running a car today is a huge cost, and a big part of that cost is your fuel bill. Although buying the cheapest gasoline or diesel is the quickest way to slash your fuel bill, there are certain things you can do to slash the cost of running a car today.

Here are 10 simple fuel saving tips that can help you get maximum mileage out of your tank.

Inflate your car tires to their correct tire pressure.

Tires are responsible for around 20% of vehicle fuel consumption. The lower the pressure, the more fuel the car needs to move it down the road. It is especially common for your tires to lose air pressure as winter sets in, due to the overall change in temperature. Under-inflated or over-inflated tires wear faster and create more friction. This causes the car engine to work harder and need more gasoline to keep your car moving.

According to the experts, inflating your tires to their correct pressure can reduce fuel consumption and save you 8 – 10% on your fuel bill. But saving money is not the only benefit you’ll gain from maintaining the car manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure.

Consider the following benefits to be gained from driving your car at the correct tire pressure:

  • Increase safety by improving the vehicle’s braking, steering and accelerating performance.
  • Increase the lifespan of your car tires by 30%.
  • Increases your grip while decreasing your braking distance.
  • Reduce the number of tires that need to be disposed of.
  • Minimize harmful gas emissions from the car engine.

Here are useful tire care tips suggested by TyreSafe.org:

  • Check the pressures when the car tyres are cold. Don’t air up your tires at the end of a long drive.
  • Adjust the car tyres pressure when travelling with increased weight from passengers or a heavy load. Towing a trailer or caravan will also require the pressures to be increased. The vehicle’s handbook will advise on the correct tyre pressure required.
  • Don’t forget to check the pressure of the spare tyre.
  • Ensure the pressure gauge used is reliable and accurate.
  • Always replace the dirt free valve cap.

Rob Beddis, TyreSafe chairman, says; ‘By taking just a few minutes every month to check the pressure of each tyre and adjust it to the recommended level, significant improvements to road safety will be made and motorists could also save money through reducing fuel consumption.’

To check your tire inflation pressures you will need a tire pressure gauge or use the gauge on the inflation equipment found at most garages and petrol stations. The correct pressures for your vehicle can normally be found on the inside of the petrol cap, in your owner’s manual or on the narrow side of the driver’s door below the lock.

Avoid idling as much as possible.

You may have gotten into the habit of starting your car in the mornings and doing nothing for a while “to let it warm up” – a practice also known as idling. This is just a myth. Idling an engine actually causes unnecessary engine wear and worsens your fuel consumption by some five per cent.

If you are just warming up your car to defrost the windshield, you would be better off investing in some decent de-icer and try to drive off straight away. If you anticipate being stuck in a queue of traffic for more than a minute or so then cutting the engine will save petrol and reduce emissions.

Avoid carrying unnecessary weight.

It is believed that 100 pound of excess weight increases fuel consumption by 1 to 2%. Wind resistance also increases fuel consumption, so it is always recommended to keep the windows closed at high speeds. Keeping the windows or sunroof open at speed can increase fuel consumption by 3 to 6%, because the faster you go, the more the open windows disrupt the aerodynamics of your car.

The car is designed to be as sleek as possible. Roof racks, bike carriers and roof boxes will all affect your car’s aerodynamics and reduce its fuel efficiency. Equally, carrying a full tank of fuel adds more weight to the car. You don’t need to drive around with a full tank every time, because the less fuel you carry, the less weight the car will have and the more fuel efficient the car will be.

Slow down.

It should come as no surprise that if you are caught speeding, you’ll likely get a speeding ticket, more points on your license and increase the cost of your insurance premiums. Then there is the very real danger of causing a serious accident which could lead to you or someone else being injured or even killed. However, what you may not realize is that speed and fuel economy do not go together. Maintain a steady speed using the highest gear possible.

The most efficient speed is typically around 45 – 50mph. Driving faster than this will greatly increase your fuel consumption. In fact, according to the AA, dropping from 80mph to 70mph could save you as much as 25% in fuel, and dropping from 70mph to 50mph can save you as much as 38%. And if you’re on smaller roads, slowing down from 70mph to 60mph could save another 10%. Now you have even more incentives to reduce your speed.

Avoid over-revving

Many drivers typically let the revs run to run to 3,000 per minute on a gasoline-powered engine and 2,500 on a diesel before moving up a gear. Revving the engine in low gear consumes large amounts of fuel. Apparently, at speeds above 75mph-80mph, the engine will rev higher and the engine will start guzzling gas as it is having to work much harder. According to the experts, it is more fuel efficient to change gears at 2,500 revs on gasoline and 2,000 on a diesel, and move into fifth (and sixth on new models) at the appropriate point.

In general, the economical band for petrol vehicles is between 1,500 and 2,500 rpm (for diesels it is between 1,300 rpm and 2,000 rpm), and these bands are the same for the vast majority of vehicles. Furthermore, the correct use of gears can make huge savings on your fuel bill of up to 15%. For maximum efficiency you should change into the highest appropriate gear when the engine is revving between 2000 and 2500 revs.

Avoid short journeys.

A cold engine will generally use twice as much fuel as a warm engine. Whenever you drive a car that has been parked for a few hours, the engine is cold and it uses much more fuel for the first five miles or so. Oil doesn’t lubricate properly until it is warm, so on a short journey a greater percentage of the journey is spent without proper lubrication.

Car engines use more fuel when cold and catalytic converters take around six miles before they become effective. This increases stress on the engine as it has to work harder, which is why it uses more fuel in the process. To get round this avoid short journeys where ever possible.

Instead of using your car, you can always walk, bike, car share or use public transport. This is why it is possible to have a 100k mile car that has less engine wear than a 30k mile car if the 30k mile car has been used within a city and the 100k mile car has lived on the freeways. For the same reason, it’s never a good idea to stress the engine when it’s cold, either by using too many revs or loading it up too much by using too much throttle.

Go slow around speed bumps.

When approaching an area that you know has a lot of speed bumps, the best thing you can do is to drive smoothly and at a constant speed of between 15-20 mph. Sudden changes in speed are the biggest reason for poor fuel economy. Braking hard, accelerating, and then braking for the next speed bump is not only an inefficient way to drive, it stresses the engine and uses extra fuel in the process.

Ditch the air conditioning.

This is easier said than done, especially when it gets really hot and humid. However, the fact of the matter is air-conditioning increases fuel consumption, especially if you’re driving at low speeds. If it gets really hot and you cannot do without air conditioning, save it for high speed driving. According to industry experts, using air conditioning when driving at low speeds such as driving around town can add 5%-7% to fuel costs. So, if you can, open the windows when driving around town when the driving may be more start/stop. When travelling at consistent, higher speeds, the fuel wastage will be less noticeable.

Accelerate smoothly.

The way you drive will have an impact on the fuel efficiency of your vehicle. The perfect way to travel is at a constant speed (ideally around 50mph), and in the highest gear (five or six). So if you’re a smooth driver, you’ll have lower fuel bills. In fact, driving like this is one of the biggest ways to slash your fuel bill with savings as much as 30%, depending on how well you are able to improve your driving style.

Here are a few tips on how to become a smoother driver:

  • Avoid any type of aggressive driving.
  • Use the accelerator smoothly and progressively.
  • Whenever appropriate, use cruise control as this keeps a steady setting on the accelerator so doesn’t vary the intake of fuel.
  • When approaching a junction, roundabout, corner etc., lift your foot off the accelerator and cruise to a stop in gear. This way, you’ll avoid using fuel. If you put the car into neutral and cruise to a stop the car will continue to consume fuel. Allow the car to slow down without having to use the brakes.
  • Accelerate gently and anticipate traffic movements. Decelerate rather than brake where possible.
  • Avoid accelerating harshly and stamping on the brakes.
  • When you can, stop pressing down on the accelerator and let the momentum of the car take you forward.
  • Travelling down a hill with your foot off the accelerator can save a considerable amount of fuel.

You can also download an app that can help you drive in a more fuel efficient manner: http://drivegain.com/.

Avoid rush hour traffic.

Do your best to avoid rush hour traffic. You’ll be putting yourself in a situation where you’ll be stopping and starting your car. The problem is, each time you stop and start, your car needs first gear and a huge amount of fuel to get moving again. You’ll also be using your brakes a lot of the time. Second gear is not much better. For this reason, avoid rush hour altogether if you can.

Summary

Fuel efficiency is one of the most important factors to consider when buying a car, especially if you live in a country where the cost of fuel is high. As a rule, small cars are generally more economical in town and bigger diesel family cars are more economical on the freeway. In any case following the tips listed above should help you make considerable savings on your fuel bill.

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