How To Improve Your Car's Fuel Efficiency
How To Improve Your Car's Fuel Efficiency
For many drivers, fuel is an expense that can be difficult to control. After all, the more you drive, the more fuel you need to use and, thus, the more you have to spend? While this will always be true, there are actually quite a few things you can do, as a driver, to mitigate these costs.
This is most commonly referred to as hypermiling, where drivers seek to keep their vehicles as fuel efficient as possible when on the road. Some do this to control emissions and help the environment, while others do it to save money. Whatever the case, here is how you can start improving your car’s fuel efficiency.
Driving At The Right Speed
Ideally, the most fuel efficient speed is believed to be 55 mph. As you start to drive faster or slower than this, the efficiency of your engine (specifically, the amount of fuel used per mile) decreases.
This means, for example, that driving at 70 mph on the motorway will get you somewhere faster, but it will cost you more in the long run. In fact, some estimates suggest this will be at least 17% less effective. If you’re frequently driving long distances, this could add up to a lot of fuel. Of course, depending on the distance that you drive, time may also be a factor that you have to balance.
When To Leave The Engine In Idle
In an ideal world, cars would be able to drive at their most efficient speed without having to stop or slow down, all of which uses more fuel. Leaving an engine running in idle, for instance, still burns up fuel, even though the vehicle isn’t going anywhere.
While you can not disconnect the engine when you’re in the middle of traffic, you can switch it off when you’re otherwise stationary. Many drivers get in the habit of leaving the car running while waiting to pick people up. Once you’ve been there more than a minute or two, you’re essentially burning fuel. With older cars, there was some merit to this, as it took less fuel to keep the car running than to start it up again. However, with modern fuel injection pumps, this is no longer an issue.
Weight And Air Resistance
When a car is in motion, there are numerous forces that create drag and other forces of resistance. Your vehicle pushes through this by using extra fuel, so reducing these initial forces can also ease up on your consumption rates.
Weight, for instance, is a common example. A heavier vehicle requires more energy to push forwards. Removing any excess items from the vehicle will help make it run for smoothly. If you have a particularly large tank, you might want to consider running it half-full, rather than completely full. This will loose some weight, but you need to offset this with having to refill more frequently.
Air resistance, likewise, is something that can slow a car down. This is, after all, why cars employ aerodynamic shapes and smooth curves. However, many people like to install roofracks and additional features that slow the car down. Alongside removing these, it can also be beneficial to look after the bodywork of your car. Dents, for instance, can hinder the aerodynamic design, while a protective layer of polish (or sealant) will help ensure a smooth outer surface to push air molecules away when driving.
In fact, this also applies to your wheels. If you don’t have the correct tyre pressure, the shape of the tyres will be not be at its most optimum. Aside from causing other problems - discussed later - this can decrease the aerodynamic properties of the tyres.
Applying the Brakes
Generally speaking, hard braking is never fuel efficient. This is because it takes a car at its most fuel intensive to an abrupt stop, meaning that the car is at a full rate of consumption for as much as possible. What many hypermilers like to do, however, is bring the car to a more natural stop when possible.
If you live on a quiet road, for example, you can often ‘coast’ the car as you approach. This will result in less aggressive braking and reduce how much fuel you use in the lead-up. Aggressive braking also wears down the brake pads faster, so learning to slow down naturally will also save you money here, too.
Of course, disconnecting the wheels makes the car handle differently, which is why you should always be well aware of your car’s capabilities. This is also why you should only do this in quiet areas, rather than on busy or main roads.
Furthermore, a car that is in better shape will naturally be more efficient. When a car has problems that hinder its ability to move forwards, this requires the engine to generate more power to do so.
Ensuring you have all the relevant engine fluids is a simple task, while the air filter is often something many people overlook. A combustion engine needs a proportional mix of air and fuel to work, so a clogged air filter will limit how much of the former it gets. This, in turn, limits how efficient the engine can be. Fortunately, it is rather easy to replace an air filter and it is something many drivers regularly get in the habit of doing.
Likewise, we’ve already hinted at how important your tyres are. Aside from pressure, the treads themselves are also vital. Many tyres are designed to offer low rolling resistance, among other parameters. This is clearly marked on the tyre label ratings used in the UK and the wider EU, so you can easily see a product’s fuel efficiency.
However, many drivers also notice that, as tyres wear down, they become more smooth and offer even less resistance. However, this comes at the expense of numerous other safety features, such as grip and water repulsion, so it is not recommended (or typically legal - the UK minimum tread depth is 1.6 mm) to use tyres in such a condition.
Even before you get in the car, the right route can make a big difference. Sometimes it is better to go a slightly longer way, if it involves bypasses and other areas where you are less likely to encounter large traffic and stalls.
The same can also be said for planning when you drive. Unless you’re going somewhere, such as work, where time is a factor, try to avoid peak hours. If you’re going somewhere in your spare time, there’s no need to drive between 8:00am and 9:00am, for instance, as that will be have regular, heavy traffic to contend with.
Finally, please always be careful to keep the road conditions in mind. While you may want the slickest tyre surface possible, this isn’t much good in wet conditions (and it does rain a lot in England). Good grip and safe driving are always essential, especially as we move into the tougher winter season.
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