How to improve fuel efficiency for your car

How to Increase Car Fuel Efficiency

Petrol and diesel prices are steadily beginning to increase once again in the UK. 2013 would see the UK hit with hefty pump prices at £1.40 per litre of petrol and had since continuously decreased to around £1.00 per litre.

The start of 2016 had a trend reversal seeing a steady increase through to 2017 where we now pay around £1.20 per litre of petrol.

Fortunately, with a few alterations in our driving habits and a bit of basic car maintenance thrown in, we can all reduce the frequency at which we visit the petrol station.

How much fuel can be saved with eco-driving? It does of course depend on the type of vehicle you drive and on your current standard of driving, but you should be looking at anywhere from 10% to 30% in fuel savings. You’ll not only save money, but will also reduce pollution.

How to Increase Fuel Efficiency

Detailed below are tips for how to improve your cars fuel economy. Those at the start of the list will typically gain best results for fuel savings.

1. Reduce Speed

Ever seen that car passing you at high speed, disappearing into the distance, only to catch them up a little later? Most of us know that the faster our cars go, the more fuel they use, but many of us are also under the illusion that we save significant time by driving faster.

Consider a 25 mile journey on a dual carriageway that has a maximum legal speed limit of 70 mph. If instead you drive at 60 mph you will increase your journey time by a little over 3 minutes (25 minutes at 60 mph compared to 21.25 minutes at 70 mph).

You will however save around 10% on fuel, plus you wont be annoying HGV drivers either as the maximum speed limit for lorries is also 60 mph.

2. Avoid Rapid Acceleration

In modern towns and cities with their various traffic systems that involves repetitive moving off and stopping, rapid acceleration and braking increases fuel consumption. Tyre, brake and engine wear also increase. The key here is to read the road ahead and predict changes in road and traffic conditions. Anticipation and planning in driving allows you to drive smoother and react to situations in good time. How much fuel you save here does of course depend on your current driving habits, but savings of anything up to 10% in fuel can be saved by using these techniques.

Accelerate moderately and change gear in time to avoid the engine revving too high. As a general guide, change up a gear before 2000 rpm in a diesel and 2500 rpm in a petrol car. When you predict a stop ahead, release the accelerator pedal but do not depress the clutch. This will allow your car to use engine braking, effectively saving fuel by coming off the accelerator pedal sooner and reducing wear on brakes and tyres because you’re putting them under less load.

3. Turn Off Air Conditioning

Turning on your car air conditioning initiates extra engine load and more fuel is burnt to compensate for this extra load. How much extra fuel an air conditioner uses depends on many variables; a smaller engine will feel the increased load more than a large engine, the age of your vehicle, ambient temperatures etc.

Essentially, if your car is reasonably modern, turning on the air con will consume anywhere between an extra 5% to 10% of fuel. In general, if you need to cool down, turn off the air con and open the windows when driving in slow moving traffic such as in and around towns.

Air resistance or ‘drag’ will affect your vehicle the faster you move, so on faster primary roads, closing the windows and switching on the air con is usually most cost effective. The higher you crank up the air con, the more fuel you’ll use. If possible use it at its lowest setting to remain comfortable.

4. Check Tyre Pressures

Under inflated tyre pressures is a common maintenance issue and can easily be attributed to an increase in fuel consumption. You can find your vehicle’s recommended tyre pressures on the inside of the door, usually on the ‘B’ pillar.

If one tyre is under inflated by as little as 2 psi, it can increase fuel consumption by 1% If you haven’t checked tyre pressure in a long time, you could possibly be significantly reducing fuel efficiency. However, tyres are designed to work most efficiently at their recommended pressures, so over inflating will not save fuel, though it may make your vehicle unstable.

5. Turn Off Electrical Equipment

Powering electrics in your car consumes energy and this energy is initially created by burning fuel. Modern vehicles are constantly improving and regenerative brakes is an area where the energy of braking is no longer wasted as heat, but is instead converted back into electricity.

However, this technology varies in efficiency and many vehicles will not utilise regenerative braking at all. Charging your phone, heated windscreens / mirrors and demisters all use more fuel, so turn them off as soon as possible.

Other Ways to Reduce Fuel Consumption

The top 5 tips detailed above for increasing fuel efficiency are the most significant methods we can all benefit from. However, here’s a few extra tips that may prove beneficial.

6. Reduce Vehicle Weight

The heavier your car, the more the engine needs to work resulting in increased fuel consumption. This is of course relative to the vehicle’s weight, so a small vehicle will be affected more, but on average carrying an extra 25 kg of unnecessary weight in your vehicle equates to an increase of 1% in fuel consumption.

Weight saving can also be made at the pumps. Rather than filling up, if your journeys mainly consist of short town trips, half filling your tank will reduce weight. Based on a 50 litre tank capacity and filling it with 25 litres of petrol, you’ll save around 18.5 kg in weight.

Ok, so if you spend £1,500 on petrol each year and manage to reduce your vehicle’s annual weight by 50 kg, you’re going to save £30 per year – not a huge amount but when following the other tips, it all adds up.

7. Regular Servicing

Having your car serviced; oil change, oil filter and spark plugs will keep your engine running efficiently. Engines that run efficiently will use less fuel. Service intervals will be found in the owners manual. If you’re mechanically minded, you could save further expense and service the car yourself – see how to service a car.

8. Turn your Engine Off

If your car has stop / start technology, then you’re already sorted. If it doesn’t then switch off your engine if you think you’re in for a reasonably long wait, this could be at a level crossing for example.

Very frequent stopping and starting on a vehicle that doesn’t have stop / start technology puts extra strain on certain components. Cars that utilise this technology use upgraded parts that can withstand the extra strain of frequent stopping and starting of the engine. They also have systems in place that monitor the vehicle to ensure it will start again before automatically turning off.

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