Easy ways to make your car more efficient
While splashing out on an expensive high-tech hybrid is certainly one way to achieve fuel efficiency, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get more bang for your buck at the bowser. Significantly improving the performance of your current set of wheels can be achieved merely by observing some easy and inexpensive steps.
“There are a lot of simple things you can do to improve economy that don’t really cost any money,” says The Sydney Morning Herald’s Drive deputy editor Stephen Ottley. “The first thing is making sure your tyres are correctly inflated, because that reduces the amount of rolling resistance on the road. The manufacturer will have the correct pressures noted on their tyres so you can always make sure they’re at their optimum pressure. Also, making sure you’ve got the right tyre for your vehicle is also important.”
Maximising aerodynamic efficiency and reducing drag is also a great way to reduce your car’s fuel consumption. With extras such as roof racks and spoilers increasing air resistance and petrol usage (in some cases by over 20 per cent at higher speeds), minimising their use makes perfect sense.
If you’ve got roof racks, make sure to take them off if you’re not using them. “Driving with your windows down also creates a small negative impact on fuel economy by creating extra drag,” says Ottley, “Even though air conditioning can also cause a slight drain on the engine, it’s still more efficient to have it switched on and have the windows up.”
The way you drive also has a huge impact on fuel economy. Take your choice of gears, for instance. Driving in a gear that’s too low, or allowing your engine to struggle in a high gear on hills, is a big fuel waster. If you’re driving a manual, change up as soon as your car is comfortable with the gear you’re in, but without accelerating harder than necessary. If you’re driving an automatic, ease back slightly on the accelerator once the car gets going. This will help the transmission to shift up more quickly and smoothly. And unless you really have to, avoid the use of power options, which immediately drop the car into a lower gear, causing it to rev higher and guzzle more gas.
“Ultimately, you want to be as smooth as possible – smooth on the throttle, smooth on the brakes,” says Ottley. “You don’t want to be jumping on the accelerator and then slamming on the brakes, speeding up and slowing down, because that’s what chews through the fuel. So the smoother you are, the better return you should find yourself getting.”
Making sure you’re not wasting fuel with unnecessary idling is also advisable. Cut the engine whenever your car is stopped or held up for an extended period of time. Having the engine switched off, even for a short period of time, will save more fuel than you’ll lose in the process of restarting the engine.
Not surprisingly, your choice of fuel will also play a critical role when it comes to actual fuel economy.
“While 95 octane and 98 octane are more expensive than 91 octane regular unleaded, they do come with detergents in them that effectively clean your engine as you drive,” says Ottley. “The fuel tests we’ve done at Drive indicate that 95 octane is probably the best fuel to go with in terms of its cost at the bowser and the improvements in economy that you’ll get.”
Of course, all the performance-boosting measures in the world will likely prove ineffective if your car isn’t in top working order to start with. That’s why servicing your vehicle regularly is essential.
“When you leave the engine to get built up with gunk, it makes it work a little bit harder and therefore burn more fuel,” explains Ottley. “That’s why you always want your car to operate in the way it’s been designed.”
Top 5 tips for a more efficient car
- Check your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure
- Choose the right gears - don’t let the engine struggle
- Fill up with the right fuel - the experts say 95 Octane gives the best bang for buck
- Keep your car serviced
- Be cool behind the wheel - smooth drivers are efficient drivers!