Whatever car you drive, one of the main expenses it brings is the fuel you need to run it. We might gasp when we get our insurance renewal quote, or bemoan an unexpected repair bill, but putting fuel in our vehicles is an essential, regular and increasingly costly task.
Most of us are keen to find the cheapest price at the pumps, and we’d bet we’re not the only ones who will drive across town to save a few cents. There’s another way to reduce your fuel costs too, though – and that’s by improving the mileage you get from your car. Take a look at our list to see what steps you can take to get more miles to the gallon (or kilometers to the liter, we should probably say – doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, though).
1. Check your tires
Keeping your tires inflated to the correct pressure ensures your car handles properly and helps keep you safe, as well as reducing wear and tear and improving mileage. It’s one of those regular maintenance tasks most of us forget, but it can make a real difference. Tire pressure gauges are inexpensive and widely available, so it’s easy to do at home. Alternatively, check at the fuel station whenever you fill up. Refer to your vehicle’s manual for the recommended pressures.
2. Keep it light on the pedal
Many of us tend to drive as fast as we can in any given circumstance; we’re impatient to get where we’re going. Jumping rapidly between the accelerator and brakes means your engine needs to work harder, though – which uses more fuel. Stay smooth on the pedals and maintain a steady speed when you can. Cruise control is your friend, if you have it.
3. Don’t be a drag
It might be convenient to keep your roof rack or cycle mounts fixed to your car, but add-ons like these increase drag. Even aerodynamically designed storage shells influence your car’s performance. Essentially, it means the engine has to work harder – using more fuel - to propel the vehicle forwards through the air. If you’re not using them, remove them.
4. Watch your weight
Our cars are handy places to store stuff. It’s easy to carry around things we ‘might’ need. The problem is, all that extra weight increases your fuel consumption. It’s like taking a walk carrying a 10kg bag rather than one that weighs 2kg – you need more energy to do it. Clear out unnecessary weighty items. A snow shovel is all very well in winter when you might get caught in a drift – but you probably don’t need it in the summer.
5. Change your fuel filter
Car manufacturers usually recommend the fuel filter is changed every 16,000-24,000 kilometers, or 10,000-15,000 miles. Even tiny grains of dirt can clog your cars injectors, affecting performance and reducing your mileage. It might be included in your vehicle’s annual service, so check with your garage. If not, ask them to do it – or alternatively, it’s a relatively simple task you could learn to do yourself as part of your regular maintenance checks.
6. Stick to the recommended fuel
We’re told ‘premium’ fuels will give better performance, but the truth is that if you’ve got a standard car, you really don’t need it. Manufacturers test to find which fuels give the best consumption levels – and for most of us, the cheaper versions are fine. If you’ve got a beast of an engine with a high compression ratio then yes, you’ll need a higher-octane fuel. Otherwise, see what the manufacturer recommends and stick to that.
7. Step it up a gear
If your car has a manual gearbox, using the highest gear for your average speed can make a considerable difference to fuel consumption. It’s important not to put undue stress on your engine, but if you can safely move up a gear, do so. Try to remember also that sitting with the engine idling will also waste fuel (not to mention the carbon dioxide you’re needlessly pumping into the atmosphere). Whoever or whatever you’re waiting for, turn it off in the meantime.
8. Check your wheel choice
One of the easiest and most popular ways to personalize a car is to change the wheels. Upsizing often means increasing the weight, though, which can have a negative impact on fuel economy. The tires you have fitted will also contribute to fuel consumption. If you’re thinking of jazzing up your car with some new alloys, consider how they could affect your fuel bills and choose carefully.