Use your car more efficiently

written by Gordon Griffin (former Snowy River Shire Council Green Team rep)
Plan your trip. The shortest route may not necessarily be the most economical. Consider traffic congestion hot spots and times.  A freeway may offer a free flowing run compared to stop start motoring on suburban streets. Hilly routes will consume more fuel. Some modern GPS units have an eco-route setting

Do a number of errands in one trip rather than several trips and save both time and fuel (for the first couple of minutes of a car trip the engine is cold, which results in an increase in fuel consumption per kilometre). Park and walk from one location if possible.

Your car engine runs most efficiently in high gear (around 1500 to 2500 rpm) so change up through the gears as soon as you can. Automatic cars shift up gears more quickly if you ease back on the accelerator once the car gathers momentum.

Less braking and accelerating means less fuel (and brake wear) when driving at a consistent speed.
  • Look-Up to scan for hazards and to improve your anticipation of traffic situations that cause stop start motoring. 
  • Avoid unnecessary acceleration and braking by driving at a good distance from the car in front (at least 3 seconds gap), so you can anticipate and travel with the flow of traffic. It requires a mindset and takes practice but will reduce your stress levels while driving. 
  • Remember that at 100 kph you travel about 30 metres per second (6 car lengths). 
  • Don't brake hard for corners and accelerate out but slow gently, negotiate and exit the corner on a light throttle. Slow down early for reduced speed zones. 
  • If you have cruise control use it for maintaining an even speed for highway driving.
Drive within the speed limit. As aerodynamic drag increases by the square of the speed giving excessive fuel consumption. The less a vehicle carries, the less fuel it uses.

So don't carry more cargo than you need to and clear out your boot. An extra 50 kg of weight can increase your petrol bill by around 2%. This also applies to the fuel load so don't keep topping up but where practicable refill when below a quarter tank.

Less additional parts on the exterior of your car. Roof racks (and the things you put on them), spoilers and having the window open can increase 'drag' and fuel use by more than 20%.

Less air conditioning uses around 10% less fuel. But at speeds of more than 80 km/h, air-con use is better for fuel economy than an open window. Make sure that your air conditioning is properly serviced to prevent the leaking of CFCs from the seals. Use the vent setting as much as possible. Park in the shade to keep car cool and reduce the need for air conditioning.

Reduce engine idling. If stopped in traffic such as at road works or at railway crossings turn off your engine but only if safe to do so. Remember an idling engine delivers zero kilometres per litre. Modern vehicles do not need to be run at idle to warm up the motor. It is better to move off immediately which will help the engine to reach its normal operating temperature sooner. A cold idling engine produces more harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide.

Maintain proper engine tune-up to keep vehicles running efficiently. Replace air, oil, and fuel filters as recommended. Use the correct grade of fuel to keep the vehicle engine clean and performing efficiently. Always consult the Owner's Manual for proper maintenance. Use good quality oils with the viscosity grade recommended in the owner guide for your climate.

Inflate your car tyres to the highest pressure recommended by the manufacturer (including your spare) and ensure your wheels are properly aligned. Looking after your tyres will not only reduce your fuel consumption it will also reduce tyre wear and damage, and improve handling. If towing do the same for the towed appliance tyres.