Posted on Sunday 15 March 2015
Last December, the media and data company Bloomberg estimated that the average Canadian spent a little under three percent of their income on gasoline in the fourth quarter of 2014. While gas prices are lower than they have been in years, you are still probably spending more than you need to on keeping your vehicle fuelled. Even if you don’t have money in the budget for a more fuel-efficient car, you can still save. Fuel-efficient driving can take your car further on each tank, and save you money at the pump. In this article, we’ll share a few tips on how to maximise your mileage.
Cut excess weight. Does your car have a lot of junk in the trunk? Are you hauling around cross-country skiing gear in summer? Moving more weight means burning more fuel, so take the time to clear all the stuff you don’t need out of your vehicle. This applies even more to any roof cargo containers. A heavy box in the back of your car will just add weight; a heavy box on the roof will also add drag, ruining your gas mileage. If you don’t need to use your roof storage box, take it off.
Drive smoothly. Pedal-to-the-metal acceleration and sharp braking might liven up your commute, but they are bad for your fuel efficiency ( and possibly your insurance costs ), especially at highway speeds. Slow, smooth acceleration and braking use less gas. Changing your driving behaviour can be a huge factor in your fuel efficiency. Try braking for corners and red lights earlier than you normally would, and accelerating more slowly. Anticipating traffic movement and light changes can also help you to stop less often: accelerating from a dead stop requires a lot more fuel than a rolling start. If you drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, climb the gears quickly for greater fuel efficiency, and switch down to take advantage of greater engine braking. Try not to speed, either: the sweet spot varies, but cars tend to be most fuel efficient at somewhere around 80km/h.
Maintain your vehicle. Poorly-maintained vehicles aren’t just more dangerous, they are also less fuel-efficient. Check your tire pressure regularly, at least once a month, particularly in the winter. Under-inflated tires reduce your fuel efficiency, and they also need replacing more often. Other common efficiency-killing maintenance issues include misaligned wheels, old engine oil and dirty air filters. Regular maintenance will keep your vehicle running smoothly and efficiently, saving you money on gas. You can easily check your own oil levels and tire pressure at home.
Choose the right fuel. Unless you drive a high performance car with non-standard compression ratios (in which case it will tell you in the owner’s manual), you don’t need the expensive high octane fuel. Using it won’t lower your fuel efficiency, but you will pay more at the pump. Note that this advice does not apply to diesel vehicles: high-cetane fuel genuinely is more efficient, although some premium diesels contain high concentrations of cleaning agent that reduce their efficiency. Once the fuel is in the tank, take steps to reduce evaporation. Make sure that the gas cap is on tight and, in hot weather, try to park in the shade.
Monitor yourself. Monitoring your driving habits can impress your car insurance company, and it can also improve your fuel economy. Fuel consumption displays come as standard in many new vehicles, but you can also buy aftermarket fuel monitors. Drivers tend to challenge themselves to reduce fuel consumption when the number is there on a screen. In fact, Natural Resources Canada estimates that you can cut fuel consumption by up to 15 percent this way.