Making every drop count

Written by fe Bureau | Updated: Oct 29 2011, 08:39am hrs
Better get used to regular increases in fuel prices. The constant rise in costs per litre has become a regular feature of every car owners life and the only way out of paying more for fuel is to not pay often. Which means you need to make every drop of fuel count. Here are some top tips to maximise your cars fuel economy and lighten the load on your wallet.

Slow Poke Rodriguez

He might not be as famous as Speedy Gonzales, but his cousin Slow Poke Rodriguez will laugh his way to the bank. Driving fast means consuming more fuel than you would if you were driving slowly. Accelerate gently and let the revs rise slowly when the car begins to move.

Once in motion, the mantra is to stay on the lowest revs and the highest gear. Do not stay in one gear for too long; instead, try to shift up before you cross 1800rpm on a diesel-engined car and around 2200rpm on a petrol. If there is no tachometer in your car, try and feel the vibration from the engine through the gearstick and pedals. Learn the maximum speed for each gear, and find the right point to shift up without causing the engine to lug. You are lugging the engine when it feels like its not able to pull, despite pressing the accelerator. It can cause long-term damage to the engine.

Cars these days are designed in the wind tunnel. Every edge and surface is designed to reduce wind drag so that it can cut through the air with ease. A dirty car, therefore, will disrupt the flow of air and cause more resistance, leading to poor fuel economy. Similarly, its better to drive with your cars windows rolled up and the AC running at a low setting rather than rolling the windows down and increasing wind drag.

Off the throttle

Once moving, keep a very light foot on the accelerator to provide the engine with enough fuel to keep you moving at a constant speed. What saves fuel is when you are not using too much of it to move your car. After all, the lesser the amount used the better.

Try to coast to a stop instead of braking sharply at the very last minute. Spot that red traffic signal early and come off the throttle early. Youll see that you have pulled up next to the speed junkie who had whizzed past you not a minute ago and is still waiting for the light to turn green.

Doing 80kph on an open stretch, consuming more fuel, braking late and waiting at traffic stops will lead to a similar average speed as driving at a steady 50kph on most stretches and waiting lesser while also consuming a lower amount of fuel.

Right roads

The more time you spend on the road, the more fuel your car consumes. Do your homework: learn which route is best suited to saving fuel. A somewhat longer route with lesser number of stops and little traffic may prove to be more efficient in terms of fuel consumption as compared to a smaller but more heavily trafficked route peppered with traffic signals.

Leaving early is another way to conserve fuel. There are fewer cars on the road and its best to leave before the traffic builds up at rush-hour.

Regular service

In a bid to save money, dont forego a scheduled service. There are certain time and distance limits for the various components and fluids in the car after which they deteriorate and dont perform to their optimum level. An air filter will gather dust over time, which will lead to loss of power from the engine and consequently you will end up using the throttle more. Replace it as stipulated in the service manual. Also replace engine oil regularly as it accumulates debris and loses its lubricating properties with constant exposure to high temperatures which can cause long-term damage.

The tyres play a key role in transferring power from the engine to the road and determine fuel economy. Get your cars tyre pressure checked once every week.

Measure it right

We all tend to take a casual and sometimes uninformed approach to measuring fuel economy, which leads to dissatisfaction and a lack of interest in improving our driving habits. The first step to accurately measure fuel economy is to completely fill up the tank. While the fuel dispenser may make a clicking sound, there is still scope to fill more fuel because of air pockets present in the tank. Shake the car a littlethis moves the fuel around and in turn releases the air pockets in the tank. Fill more fuel and repeat the previous step.

Set the tripmeter to zero. If there is no tripmeter, note the odometer reading. Drive around as you normally would for about a week or so and then fill the car up to the brim again and note down the amount of fuel filled. Now divide the tripmeter reading with the amount of fuel filled to arrive at the correct fuel efficiency figure. Subtract the original odometer reading from the current reading and divide it by number of litres filled. If you are not satisfied with your cars fuel consumption, find out why. It maybe that the fuel is not of good quality, or the fuel station may be cheating you. You can get the volume and density of fuel checked at any station without being charged for it.

While a number of factors determine how much fuel your car consumes, your driving habits will ultimately determine how much money you can save in the long run.