Top 10 tips for improving your car fuel economy

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With the current high fuel prices, even a relatively small improvement in your MPG can save you money. Most drivers will be able to make savings by changing their driving habits and techniques.

There is a lot written on this subject, however some of the information is misleading and confusing. Confused About Energy has carried extensive research to identify the best ways to improve your car’s fuel economy and save you money. Here are our top ten tips (not necessarily in order of importance or amount of saving):-

  1. Drive smoothly
    All aspects of your driving should be gentle and smooth – accelerating, breaking and steering. Sharp acceleration, hard breaking and flinging the car about will significantly increase fuel consumption. Imagine you have a passenger holding a full cup of coffee and trying to drive so that none of it spills out!
  2. Don’t over rev and avoid high speeds.
    It isn’t just about driving slowly, but driving at the most efficient speed for the engine. This can be done by keeping the engine at its most economical rpm, usually between 1500 and 2500 depending on engine type and size. At very high speeds engines will be outside this range and consume significantly more fuel. Aerodynamic drag also increases rapidly above 70mph. According to the Department of Transport driving at 85mph uses approximately 25per cent more fuel than at 70mph (plus its illegal!) and at 70mph about 10 per cent more than at 60mph.

  3. Keep moving!
    In heavy traffic and urban areas you can save fuel by trying to keep the car moving as much as possible. Maintain a distance from the car in front, look ahead and try to anticipate what is happening so that you can minimise braking and accelerating. It takes more fuel to get a vehicle moving than it does to keep it moving.
  4. Get in the right gear
    Try to maintain the optimum revs by changing up a gear at the right time, this is about 2500 revs on a petrol car and 2000 revs on a diesel. Change gear quite quickly but smoothly at the right revs. This will get the car into its highest and most economical gear quicker. However don’t change up too early at very low revs, this causes the engine to labour and will also increase fuel consumption.
  5. Go easy on the brakes
    Braking hard wastes energy, increases fuel consumption and wears out the brakes. A fantastic tip is to slow down gradually by slowly lifting your foot off the accelerator whilst leaving the car in gear and let the car slow by itself rather than use the brake. In modern engines the Engine Control Unit cuts out the fuel supply to the engine when you lift your foot of the throttle but the car is still in gear, meaning you use no fuel at all. Although the engine continues running it is being driven by the wheels. This is called deceleration fuel cut off. This is not to be confused with coasting in neutral, which is not advisable from a safety or fuel economy point of view. If you coast in neutral with the clutch depressed or the car out of gear you are not in full control of the car and there will still be fuel used due to the engine needing to maintain idle engine speed.
  6. Don’t warm up before you go go
    When you are going out on a cold morning, don’t start up and leave the car running with the fan heaters and/or window heaters on. As well as using fuel to go nowhere, using the heaters will slow the rise to operating temperature of the engine. This causes the fuel injectors to add more fuel to the fuel air mixture until the proper engine temperature is reached. So it is a double whammy. You can save fuel by not running the engine before you go, using de-icer or scraping the windows if frosty and don’t put the heaters on until the car is engine is up to operating temperature (you may need an extra jumper on!)
  7. Lose some weight and slim down
    The car that is. Extra weight means the car uses more fuel to get around, so take out everything you don’t need. There’s probably not much to be saved on weight reduction unless you have forgotten to take out a few bags of cement or unhook the caravan. Also roof racks, bike racks and roof boxes can increase aerodynamic drag and therefore increase fuel consumption. So take them off if you are not using them.
  8. Pump up the tyres
    Under inflated tyres increase resistance and therefore increase fuel consumption. Handling is also worse and your tyres will wear quicker. So this is an easy one really, check your tyre pressure regularly and keep them inflated.
  9. Catch a lift! Try car sharing
    Whether it’s for the daily commute or one off trips to town or the shops, car sharing can obviously significant reduce your fuel bill. It can also reduce congestion on the roads. You can ask around at work or in in your community to set something up, or there are several car sharing webs sites dedicated to helping people set up or find car sharing schemes.
  10. Leave the car at home!
    The ultimate fuel saving tip. Try a bike, walking, the bus or train. This will not be an option for everyone, particularly for people in rural communities with little or no public transport.
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    0 # Update information and figuresCarol 2013-11-04 20:09
    I found the site really useful but the data is from February. When can we expect an update??
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    0 # Buy a car that has a vertical rearDixon Joinery 2012-11-16 16:53
    The chances are that most of us will be driving 50% of time with the wind behind us. I think with estate cars or cars with a 'van like' rear hatch, you can take advantage of the wind helping to blow you along. On a windy day, try recording your mpg separately to & from your destination. You will be surprised at the difference !
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