MOTORING NEWS - Petrol prices make up a massive portion of the running costs of a car and are unpredictable. "Fuel takes up to 45% of the running costs of a car," says Willie Venter, fleet consulting manager at EQSTRA Fleet Management. Added to this, automatic cars, especially older models, have been slightly less fuel efficient than manuals, according to stats by the USA's Environmental Protection Agency.
Manufacturers have been working to counter this perception, and give these tips to make your fuel go further:
Keep your momentum
It's science - a body in motion stays in motion and therefore uses less energy and fuel. Don't brake unless needed. Driving slowly and consistently will keep your car going forward more smoothly. This means planning and anticipation on the road is necessary.
Don't keep a foot on the brake
Resting your foot on the brake pedal, no matter how lightly, applies drag to the car, which hugely impacts fuel economy. How Stuff Works says, "It'll place an unnecessary burden on the engine and transmission. You'll wear out your brakes rapidly, as well." (www.howstuffworks.com).
Correctly inflated tyres
Your car only touches the ground on four places. Each tyre has a portion as big as the palm of a hand that actually touches the road. This has a huge impact on driving and fuel efficiency. An under-inflated tyre causes the car to drag, increases stopping distances and is generally unsafe. Over-inflation may cause damage, leading to a puncture or burst tyre.
Don't drive angrily
Racing to the robot, fast braking and crazy accelerating all gulp fuel. The US Environmental Protection Agency says, "Aggressive driving can increase fuel consumption by 33% at highway speeds and 5% around town." Accelerate gently, and pull away slowly to save petrol.
Buy petrol when it's cool
Science also explains this one. Liquids expand in heat. You'll get more bang for your buck when the petrol is compact in the cooler morning or evening temperatures.
Some automatic cars stay in lower gears longer than is fuel efficient. Try to coax the transmission into shifting earlier by taking your foot off the accelerator after 50km. Accelerate slowly once you're in the higher gears.
Make fewer trips
Once a car has been parked for a few hours, the engine has cooled down. When driving again, it will use more fuel for the first 10 kilometres or so. Try to combine trips when possible.
When the car runs smoothly and is in good mechanical condition, you'll be able to get the best fuel economy. How Stuff Works reports that sending a car for regular maintenance can boost fuel economy with up to 10%.
Schedule maintenance regularly so that car parts will last longer, allowing savings through less fuel consumption and reducing repair costs.
Cruise when you can
Cruise control really helps with saving fuel when driving on a level surface such as highways and freeways. Driving at a constant speed cancels out unnecessary acceleration. However, using cruise control on steep hills could increase fuel consumption as the system will attempt to keep your vehicle travelling at a constant speed, making the engine work harder - this uses more fuel.
Don't lose traction
Tyres are more likely to slip on wet or gravel surfaces. Every time that happens, you lose fuel mileage - and endanger yourself and others to boot. Take care when starting off on unpaved or slippery roads and slow down on rough surfaces.
All of these small and manageable changes add up to measurable fuel saving.
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