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How to Improve Fuel Economy

There are a number of things you can do to improve your vehicle's fuel economy. Making some small changes to the way you drive will give you a noticeable difference in the amount of fuel your car uses, meaning real savings on fuel expenses.

Economic driving

The best way to ensure your car uses as little fuel as possible is to drive it more economically. The accelerator pedal controls how much power the engine provides so it directly affects the fuel flow. Use the accelerator pedal only as much as you need to. Depress the accelerator pedal softly and ease your foot off it as soon as you achieve a comfortable speed. Plan well ahead and take your foot off completelay if you see an oncoming hazard or a reason to stop. Driving in this way is safer and provides your passengers with a smoother ride. It also saves fuel!

Power the engine with momentum

If you have a car with a manual gearbox, don't coast down hills in neutral. You may have heard this is a good way to save fuel, but it's not. Coasting is dangerous - when your car is in neutral the engine is no longer connected to the drivetrain. This makes sharp cornering very difficult and can increase the possibility of a skid. You may also need to use the accelerator quickly to avoid unexpected hazards, which is hard when the transmission is not in gear.

You might think that because the vehicle is idling while you're coasting you're using less fuel than if it were in gear, but this is not correct.

If you put your car into a suitable gear and take your foot off the accelerator, you ensure that no fuel will be used as long as the car is travelling under its own momentum, such as down a hill or when slowing down to approach a junction or heavy traffic. The engine is using the vehicle's momentum to drive it so it doesn't need any fuel. Sensors in the car will recognise that the wheels are powering the engine and so there's no need to inject fuel into the cylinders. This applies to most modern manual and automatic cars.

When you coast in neutral the engine needs fuel to prevent it from stalling. Research suggests that an idling engine uses the same amount of fuel in two minutes as it would take to drive about one mile, so remember to switch the engine off if you're stationary for more than a minute or two.

In summary - choose a suitable gear and take your foot off the accelerator as often as possible, but don't coast in neutral or with your foot on the clutch. A suitable gear is the highest one available that is safe and will not cause the engine to stall. If the engine is about to stall, fuel will be used to try and prevent it.

Avoid the brakes

Braking is a waste of fuel. The fuel your car has used to generate energy will be wasted as the brakes convert that energy into heat. We're not recommending that you don't brake at all! Instead, drive in a way that means you need to use them less.

Plan well ahead so you can anticipate obsticles or delays such as traffic lights. Take your foot off the accelerator earlier than usual when approaching a situation where you may need to stop.

On motorways, try to leave a larger than usual gap between you and the vehicle in front. You'll have plenty of warning if they begin to slow down, meaning you can try to reduce your speed without using the brakes.

Air Conditioning

Energy is required to compress the cooling agent in Air Conditioning systems. This energy is provided by the engine, which causes it to use more fuel. Air Conditioning will use fuel even when the outside air temperature is cooler than inside the car. It's recommended that you switch off Air Conditioning systems when you don't need them, or if the outside air temperature is below 18C.

Reduce drag

As you drive along air needs to move around the car as efficiently and smoothly as possible. If it can't your car needs to work harder, which uses more fuel. Your car has been designed to be as aerodynamic as possible, but there are things you can do to improve the aerodynamics to use less fuel.

Ensure windows and sunroofs are closed as often as possible. Remove roof racks, boxes or cycle carriers.

These changes will make the most difference at higher speeds, such as on motorways.

Tyres

Ensure your car tyres are inflated to the correct pressure. This can make a huge difference to fuel consumption. When tyres are correctly inflated there is much less friction between them and the road. Get regular wheel alignment checks to ensure all the wheels are facing the same direction.

Remove excess weight

Take everything out of your car that you don't need and adds extra weight to it. Items such as floor mats, loose change, novelty toys/dashboard ornaments and CDs.

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