08 October 2014

My Top 10 Tips to Save Petrol (and Money)

The dramatic jump in the cost of petrol over the last year or so has added roughly $14.00 a week to the cost of running our car. That's $728 in a year. And with me doing less than a third of the driving I used to do. I need to work an extra 36.4 hours or one whole week just to cover the increased cost of fuel!

With such high prices (and I understand it's going to continue to climb even if the prices have been low the last month or so) every little thing you can do to save burning fuel for nothing is money in your pocket. The cost of running a car is taking a larger and larger portion of your pay each week and according to a report by VEDA the cost of petrol is pushing more and more Australians into debt.

Reducing those costs can be done by simply paying attention to your car and your driving habits.

Here are my top 10 ways to save petrol:

1. Fill up first thing in the morning when it's still cool. This is especially relevant now we're coming into summer. The explanation I have for this is as petrol is gaseous it becomes denser when it's cool. As the petrol pumps measure volume you'll get better value for money buying when the fuel is at its most dense, such as early morning or late night. I've not been able to find any counter-claims on this one, so I figure it's worth a try.

2. Maintain the correct tyre pressure for your car. You'll find the information in the handbook if you need it. Under inflated tires reduce fuel efficiency by 2% for every pound they are under inflated. Under inflation also causes premature tyre wear giving your tyres a shorter life.

3. Drive smoothly - avoid unnecessary acceleration. Drive at a good distance from the car in front so you can anticipate and travel with the flow of traffic. This avoids unnecessary acceleration and frequent repetitive braking that ends up wasting fuel. It's also far safer.

4. Avoid using air conditioning whenever possible. Air conditioning reduces fuel economy by 10% to 20% when operating. Use the air ventilation system instead. However at speeds of over 80 km/h, use of air conditioning is better for fuel consumption than an open window.

5. Don't drive with open windows when travelling at high speeds. Open windows on the highway can reduce fuel efficiency by 10%. It's much better to use the ventilation system or air conditioning.

6. Remove roof racks and other items which make your car less aerodynamic when they're not being used. Leaving them on only makes your car less fuel efficient and costs you money.

7. There is no need to let your car idle. Even on cold mornings, cars don't need to idle more than 30 seconds. Newer cars are designed to be driven almost immediately and letting your car idle longer is a waste of petrol. By having the engine switched off, even for a short period, you will save more fuel than is lost from the burst of fuel involved in restarting the engine. The increased wear and tear from doing this is negligible.

8. Remove all the excess weight from your car. Many people use their car boot as a storage space adding unneeded kilos to the car's weight. This unnecessary weight reduces the car's fuel efficiency by about 2% for every 50kg. How much weight is your car carrying?

9. Minimise use. Plan your trips so that you're doing a number of things in one go. You'll save time and fuel. If it's just a short trip think about walking or cycling. If its longer trip is public transport an alternative? Try to avoid the stop-start of peak hour if it's at all possible or try carpooling. Perhaps you can start earlier or later to avoid the traffic.

10. Service your car regularly. Keep your vehicle well-tuned and reduce greenhouse gases by up to 5 per cent. Having your car well maintained will help it keep its resale value too. Keep tyres filled to the recommended PSI and rotate them regularly (it helps them to wear evenly, meaning you'll get optimum wear from them).

There are times using the car just can't be avoided. Doing your best to get the best fuel economy will save you money and help the environment just a little.

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