With fuel prices exponentially rising, we are all looking to save money and fuel. Try these 10 easy tried and tested tips on how to save fuel while driving to see how many more miles to the gallon you can get.
A couple of years ago I took an hour-long fuel-efficient driver training course. It had been two decades since I sat my driving test, and I remember I was so nervous about having someone sit in the passenger seat and judge my driving.
As I got in the car, my palms felt sweaty and my heart raced. I was certain the driving instructor was going to scold me for crossing my hands on the steering wheel. Or, my worst nightmare, ask me to parallel park in a tight spot on a busy street.
It turned out there was no judging and no tricky manoeuvres. Instead, we drove a circuit, whilst James, my friendly instructor, kindly pointed out some simple tweaks to my driving style, that could help improve my car’s miles to the gallon. I then completed the circuit again. When the hour was up, James calculated that I could save around 15% fuel from doing what I doing, just a little more efficiently.
The tips stayed with me, and I’ve certainly put them to good use. However, I never knew exactly how beneficial the course was, until, the end of last year. We bought a ‘new’ secondhand car. The dashboard displays how many miles to the gallon you currently get, based on your driving. Right now I’m getting 4.7 more miles to the gallon than the previous owner. If petrol prices do reach £2.50 per litre, then that’s some serious savings.
How To Save Fuel While Driving
It goes without saying that the best way to save fuel is to avoid using your car when you don’t need to.
However, for journeys that you do need to make by car then adopting some fuel-saving techniques can help save you a considerable sum of money. In turn, it helps the environment too.
If you don’t have a fuel-efficient driving instructor, like James near you, that can teach you the fuel-efficient driving basics face-to-face, then all is not lost. Here are my easy tried and tested tips on how to save fuel whilst driving. These have helped, and continue to help me save big time.
1. Avoid Carrying Unnecessary Items or Loads
Are you the kind of person who drives around with a boot full of bottles, to go to the bottle bank, yet you keep forgetting to deposit them? Or a boot full of items for the recycling centre or charity shop, but you never actually get round to going? Or maybe, you are a golfer and you keep a set of golf clubs in the boot on the very off chance of an impromptu round of golf?
If you can relate, then perhaps it is time to rethink your ways. This is because anything that adds to the weight of your car will increase fuel consumption. Simply avoiding carrying unnecessary loads when you don’t need to will really help you to save fuel when driving, without even noticing.
2. Remove Unneccessary Hardware From Your Car
In a similar vein, you should remove any roof racks, roof boxes, and bike carriers from your car when they are not in use. This is because these types of hardware significantly increase air resistance, particularly when you are driving at higher speeds. This in turn increases your fuel consumption. Taking these things off your car once you are done with them can be fiddly. Yet the amount of fuel you can save by doing so is not to be sniffed at.
3. Check Your Tyre Pressure Regularly
Checking your tyre pressure regularly is a good habit to get into. This is because as well as being a safety hazard, underinflated tyres create more rolling resistance. More energy is required to overcome this rolling resistance. This, in turn, means more petrol or diesel is needed by your car.
Always check your tyre pressure with a gauge to ensure it is around the tyre pressure level indicated by your car’s manufacturer. A tyre with 25% of the air let out of it looks like a fully inflated tyre, so never trust your eyes.
Overinflating your tyres does not improve your car’s fuel efficiency, so don’t be tempted to overinflate. Stick to the guidelines, and you will save fuel whilst driving, without compromising your safety.
4. Drive Smoothly To Save Fuel
Have you ever been a passenger in a car, where the driver zooms up at high speed to the traffic lights that are clearly going to turn red? The driver then has to come to a very abrupt halt.
I know I have. And whilst it’s not a great driving experience for passengers, it’s even worse for your fuel economy. This is because any unnecessary braking and acceleration all increase your fuel usage.
Instead, adopting a smoother driving technique is the way to go. As well as saving fuel when you are driving, it’s also a much less stressful style of driving.
To drive more smoothly, it’s simply a case of anticipating situations and other road users as far ahead as possible to help avoid any unnecessary braking and acceleration. So, for example, if a pedestrian is waiting at traffic lights to cross, it’s likely the lights might turn red. Ease off the accelerator a little, so that if you do have to stop, you will require less braking. As I have seen, little tweaks like this can make a big difference to your fuel economy.
Meanwhile, keeping a good distance from the car in front of you also helps you to save fuel. This is because you can ease off the accelerator to control your speed when necessary, rather than having to press on the brakes.
5. Don’t Linger In Lower Gears
Lingering in lower gears is one surefire way to unnecessarily use up a lot of petrol or diesel. This is because when you drive at high revs per minute (RPM), your car engine works much harder than it needs to.
To save fuel when driving, instead, when you are accelerating, shift up to a higher gear as early as possible. Aim to be driving at no more than 2,000 to 2,500 RPM before moving up a gear. It is also fuel-efficient to skip gears. So, depending on the speed you are planning to drive at, when you are accelerating you could skip from 3rd directly to 5th gear, to avoid sitting unnecessarily in 4th gear.
6. The Accelerator Isn’t Always Your Fuel Saving Friend
One of my favourite ways to save fuel is to simply ease off the accelerator. If you are driving downhill, you can remain in gear, but ease right off the accelerator as soon as you start going down the hill.
It’s a particularly good technique if you are driving in a 20 or 30 mph zone. This is because it avoids having to unnecessarily use the brake to stay within the speed limit. However, even on higher speed roads, if you have been driving at speed then your car should have enough momentum to get down the hill at a decent speed without using any fuel.
Remember, never coast down a hill in neutral. This is against the Highway Code because coasting can affect the steering and control of your vehicle.
Similarly, driving at excessively high speeds also increases your car’s fuel consumption. Drag resistance increases dramatically at high speed. Research by the Department for Transport showed that for a typical modern car, fuel consumption increases by around 14.9% between 60 and 75mph. This figure is double for vans. And driving at 80 mph, whilst also illegal, can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph.
Taking it easy on the accelerator means your wallet takes it easy too.
7. Don’t Be A Fan of Air Conditioning
When it comes to the bells and whistles of your car, air conditioning is probably the highest consumer of fuel. In fact, running your air conditioning could increase your fuel usage by as much as 10%.
While it probably isn’t practical to stop using your air conditioning, consider where you might be able to use it more sparingly. On hot days, parking in shaded spots for example could help keep your car naturally cooler. Meanwhile, opening a window when driving at lower speeds could help to keep your car cool without any impact on your fuel use.
8. Close Your Windows At High Speed
When driving in areas with a lower speed limit, it is more fuel-efficient to keep your cool by opening your windows. However, the opposite is true at high speeds. Keeping your windows open when driving at high speed on dual carriages or motorways, in particular, creates resistance. This is because an open window, even if it is just slightly open, adversely affects the aerodynamics of your car. The engine, therefore, has to burn significantly more fuel to overcome this resistance.
On a hot day, it’s, therefore, better to use the air conditioning to keep cool when driving at high speed. When you drive on to a slower road, you can then turn off the air-con, and crank open that window to help save fuel.
9. Save Fuel By Avoiding Idling
One no-brainer to save fuel is to turn off your engine when you are not driving. Avoiding idling when you expect to be stationary for more than 30 seconds, helps to improve air quality for everyone. It also stops your car from burning through fuel when you are not in motion.
10. Reverse Into Parking Spaces
Finally, my last tip to help you save fuel when you are driving is to try to reverse into parking spaces at the end of your journey, where possible. This is because a cold car engine consumes substantially more petrol than a hot engine, where the petrol is mixed with more air.
Reversing into the space at the end of your journey, on a warm engine, uses only minute amounts of fuel. Meanwhile, reversing on a cold engine is significantly more fuel-intensive. Leaving the car pointing the right way for its next journey significantly cuts fuel consumption, because setting off straight on a cold engine is much less work for the car’s engine.
Got any more fuel-saving tips? I am all ears! And if you are looking to save money on your heating costs too, then here are my easy ways to save energy and money in the home.