Fuel makes up a sizeable chunk of your monthly running costs. Find out how to eke out every last drop and save money
Fuel prices can be a big burden on your wallet – it’s getting harder and harder to fill your car up without wondering if you’ll be seeing ‘card declined’ at the till. Factor in the rising costs of staying warm, fed and housed and it’s perhaps time you started doing a bit to eke out every last drop of fuel in your car.
With that in mind, here are eight tips to make your car’s fuel go further.
Smoothly does it
As well as making you look like you’re rushing home to a burning house (hopefully not), mashing the accelerator away from every roundabout or set of traffic lights is not going to set you on the enlightened path to outstanding fuel economy.
Every time you use full throttle, you’re asking your car to throw the maximum amount of fuel into the engine to propel you onwards as rapidly as possible. Ease onto the accelerator and accelerate more gently and you’ll see a huge improvement in your car’s fuel economy.
Try to predict when you’ll need to slow down or speed up. Are the traffic lights ahead about to change from red to green? Slow down in advance without braking hard so that you can keep the car moving and not actually come to a stop. Not only is timing your approach to red lights and junctions going to make your drive smoother and calmer – it’ll save you fuel too.
Every time you have to get your car rolling from a standstill you use lots of fuel, so you’re best trying to keep rolling if it's safe to do so. That way, you preserve momentum and, crucially, save fuel.
Are you the sort of person to sit merrily at 80mph on a motorway in the hope it gets you to your destination more quickly? You might be surprised to find it’s not terribly legal to do 80mph on the UK motorway network, and it’s also surprisingly bad for fuel economy. Drop down to 70mph and you’ll be sticking to the law while also saving a tonne of fuel.
Perhaps not a literal tonne, but enough to make a difference over the course of a year – research by What Car? suggests that doing 80mph uses up to 25% more fuel than driving at 70mph. Oof.
Check those tyres
As well as holding your car onto the surface of the road, your tyres play a huge part in your fuel economy. Let your tyres drop in pressure and they’ll take more effort to roll over the road, meaning your engine has to use more fuel to maintain speed. It may be a chore, but it’s worth popping to a petrol station once per month to check your tyre pressures and re-inflate them if necessary – and remember that tyres do tend to drop in pressure over time, even if they’re not punctured.
Studies show that a tyre that’s 10% low on pressure will decrease fuel economy by 2%. That fact probably won’t win you mates in the pub, but it’s good for your bank account.
If you’re stuck in traffic, switch your engine off (if safe to do so) or use your car's stop-start feature when at traffic lights or in traffic to avoid burning excessive fuel. You might also appreciate the peace and quiet as you wait for the lights to change.
Don’t carry anything you don’t need to
It might seem like your car’s engine can shrug off any extra weight, but you’re not doing your fuel economy any favours by lugging around stuff you don’t need. Is your boot full of a big heavy pram despite the kids walking to school all week? Ditch it. Likewise, there’s no need to carry around a snow shovel during the August heatwave (we can dream). All that extra weight will need even more fuel to propel it.
And for Pete’s sake, don’t drive around all year with your summer-holiday roofbox attached. It’s the car equivalent of trying to run a 100m sprint while wearing a sumo costume.
Don't drive with your windows open
Driving with your windows open can also increase your fuel consumption, especially when driving at higher speeds. Open windows make your car less aerodynamic, and the increase in drag will mean you use more fuel.
Don’t leave your air-con on
Air-conditioning systems are getting more efficient these days, but they still use a surprising amount of fuel to run. So unless you’re melting, freezing or your windows are fogging up – turn it off. Do check it actually works every couple of weeks, however – there are lots of seals in an air-con system that can degrade if not used.