While fuel price rises continue to be a painful addition to motoring costs, there are plenty of things that you as a driver can do to put the brakes on that fuel bill. The way that you drive and the condition of your car has a huge impact on the amount of fuel you use every day, and these unnecessary costs can really add up over time.
It's possible to drive the same distances in same the amount of time, without cutting your top speed, but using a lot less fuel. According to the AA, when 50 of its employees took part in an eco-driving experiment, they saved an average 10% on their weekly fuel bills, with the best achieving an impressive 33% saving.
“Families have been hit hard by record fuel prices and are looking for ways to drive down costs," says Jim Kirkwood, managing director of AA Driving School. "Eco driving involves simple techniques that anyone can master. If used correctly, they can help you cut hundreds of pounds a year from your fuel bills – reducing the impact of record prices.”
Here are five super-simple tips to help you save fuel and money.
1. Lose weight and get streamlined
The more weight a vehicle carries, the more fuel it uses. Clear clutter from the boot, and get rid of anything that you don’t need. Cars are not a storage facility so keep the tools and sports stuff at home unless you need them. "Roof-racks and boxes add wind resistance and so increase fuel consumption. If you don't need it take it off – if you do, pack carefully to reduce drag", <a href="http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/fuels-and-environment/drive-smart.html">adds the AA</a>. So unless you’re about to strap some surfboards to the roof and head to the beach, ditch the rack right now...
2. Get in gear
Driving in a gear lower than you need wastes fuel, as does letting the engine flounder in top gear. In a manual vehicle, change up gears as soon as possible – but be careful not to labour the engine. The AA recommends that you change up at an engine speed of around 2,000 rpm in a diesel car or around 2,500 rpm in a petrol car. That way you can ensure that you’re driving in the highest gear possible without over-working the engine. Driving in the right gear at the right time makes such a difference to fuel efficiency that new cars are increasingly fitted with a gear shift indicator light to show the most efficient points to change gear. That should tell you everything you need to know!
3. Get better at journey planning
Fuel saving can start before you’ve even left the house. If the journey is unfamiliar, make sure you’ve planned the route to reduce the risk of getting lost, especially if you don’t have sat nav. And even if the journey is familiar, it’s always worth checking the traffic news before you leave. "Don't start the engine until you're ready to go as idling wastes fuel and the engine warms up more quickly when you're moving, the AA says in its <a href="http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/fuels-and-environment/drive-smart.html">official eco-driving advice</a>. "In the winter, scrape ice rather than leave the car idling to warm up Cold starts use more fuel, advises the AA, so it’s worth thinking about how you can combine errands and trips into one journey. And once you are moving, think about your road position: the more you read the road ahead, the better you’ll be able to keep a steady and fuel-friendly momentum.
4. Don’t drive too hard and fast
It’s important to take it easy on the accelerator, as more revs equal more petrol use. Keeping a steady momentum is really important, and that means accelerating gradually without over-revving. The harder you press on the pedal, the more the fuel will flow, and the more money you’ll burn. The same goes for the brakes; press hard and the speed that you’ve paid for gets converted into heat. With this in mind, avoid situations that require stop-start driving, as this is much less efficient than driving at a constant speed. For example, if your rush-hour commute requires you to spend half an hour crawling through areas at 3mph, consider setting out a little earlier or later to avoid peak traffic.
5. Pump up the tyres
"Check tyre pressures regularly and before long journeys; under-inflated tyres create more rolling resistance and so use more fuel," <a href="http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/fuels-and-environment/drive-smart.html">advises the AA</a>. It’s thought that you can improve fuel consumption by up to 2% if you regularly check and maintain pressures, so it really does pay to keep an eye on these as often as you can.