Autoview Motorsport & Motoring

Friday, 23 December 2011

Fuel saving guide

Despite the dull sounding title, saving fuel can be a hoot. Don't believe me? I wouldn't blame you! but it really can be fun, in the way that obsessing over your golf swing or chasing track day lap-times can be fun (sort of!).

Consider this -  you have just been given the last gallon of fuel on the planet, your challenge is to make it last as long  as possible. Don't get too hung up on achieving the MPG figures that the manufacturer of your vehicle claims it can do in the glossy brochure, just try to maximise what you can achieve, and a fuel saving road trip can become an addictive pastime.

Most cars these days have a trip computer, which will work out fuel consumption for you. If your car doesn't, the most accurate way to check is by filling your fuel tank as fully as you can, zero the trip counter or note down the mileage, then drive until you need to put more fuel in. Note down the amount of fuel you have put in to take the tank back to full, and then you'll have to convert to gallons (4.54609 litres in one UK gallon). So, if your tank has just taken 70 litres of fuel for a 400 mile trip (70/4.54609 = 15.397 UK gallons divided into 400 miles = 25.98 MPG)

So, first things first: simple things you can do to set up the car:

1. Tyre Pressures - check the manufacturer's recommendations and inflate those tyres. More pressure means a lower rolling resistance, or in other words, the tyre will roll more easily across the tarmac.

2. Reduce Weight - remove as much unnecessary weight as possible. A lighter car has less lard to drag around and consequently accelerates, stops and steers better too.

3. Service your car regularly - burned fuel deposits inside your engine can cause sludge and varnish to build up, so reducing the efficiency of your power unit. A quality engine flush can remove these deposits, but consult your vehicle servicing agent to make sure it's safe for your vehicle.

4. Don't neglect your fuel system either - a quality fuel cleaner and a new filter can ensure the fuel is delivered efficiently.

5. Hyper-Mileing Techniques - A driver's ability to be gentle with the throttle, keep momentum up hills, through roundabouts, junctions and other road hazards has to be practised.

Start by planning your journey thoroughly. Adding  half an hour to anticipated journey times allows for heavier than expected traffic or roadworks. Most fuel is used accelerating a vehicle up to its cruising speed. Once at a cruising speed your foot will naturally ease off the throttle and the vehicle will sip fuel. So, whenever you are building up speed, treat the throttle gently, steadily allow the vehicle to build speed using the minimum input necessary.

Timing your gearchanges and learning to listen to the engine, to ensure it isn't labouring or revving too hard can become a challenge akin to a golf game! Of course a heavier, thirstier Automatic doesn't have this element of challenge!

Reading the road ahead is crucial. Forward momentum must be maintained at all costs, always remembering that it's the acceleration phase which is going to cost you most, so try to avoid those expensive bursts of throttle, by using the momentum you have already built up. If the traffic lights are on red, and you can see that in advance, ease off the throttle, let the car coast, try not to brake and hope the lights will change before you get there!

Leave decent space between you and the car in front. This allows you to react to his/her actions, anticipate the car you are following braking, turning or doing something unexpected, begin to plan any overtaking as soon  as you realise you will have to overtake. Which means looking well ahead and also watching your mirrors! Total concentration on your driving shouldn't really be a bad thing, but please don't take it extremes and be considerate towards other road users.

So make it your mission to eek out those drops of precious petrol, Diesel, LPG or whatever weird and wonderful concoction you run your pride and joy on! Remember it takes years of practice to become a fuel miser, but just like perfecting that golf swing, becomes very addictive!

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