Fuel Economy

Fuel Economy
It seems the way of the world that the price of most goods just keeps
heading skywards. And the cost of fuel for our motorcars is certainly
no exception! Fortunately, there are a number of fairly simple ways
of making your car go further between fills at the fuel bowser and,
consequently, saving some of your hard earned cash.
And if that isn’t sufficient motivation, reducing your car’s fuel consumption also means
there are fewer greenhouse gases and polluting emissions going into our atmosphere,
and less of our dwindling, non-renewable fossil fuel reserves are being squandered.
Many of the tips in this brochure might seem simple and little more than
commonsense. However, it’s surprising how often the obvious can be overlooked by
any of us.
Drive Economically
Smart driving techniques and a little planning can significantly improve fuel economy.
For best economy, drive smoothly and avoid accelerating harder than required. Look
ahead in traffic and drive as smoothly as possible, trying to maintain a fairly steady
safe speed. Accelerating the car only to have to slow down and accelerate again takes
more energy and that means using more fuel.
Sensible use of the gearbox is important. Driving in a lower gear than necessary
and revving the engine hard wastes fuel - change up through the gears as soon as
practical, but not so the engine labours.
An automatic gearbox will shift up through the gears quicker if you ease back slightly
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on the accelerator once the car has gained sufficient speed. If your car’s auto has
power and economy modes - you may need to check your owner’s handbook - use
the economy mode to ensure the transmission up shifts earlier.
Higher speeds will also consume more fuel. For example, for your car to travel at
110kph instead of 90kph could increase fuel use by as much as 25 percent! Back off a
bit and save. You might avoid a speeding fine too.
If your car is fitted with a cruise control, using it during highway driving will help to
maintain a steadier cruising speed. Vehicle operation will be smoother and you will
avoid unnecessary pumping of the accelerator.
Remember, every time you push the accelerator pedal you feed the engine more fuel.
Avoid prolonged engine idling where possible. Switch off the engine if delays are
expected to be lengthy rather than let the car continue idling and consuming fuel.
Avoid peak hour and other heavy traffic where possible. If you can reschedule your
trip to an earlier or later time, or use an alternative route to avoid the congestion you
will be saving fuel. Remember that a cold engine is less fuel-efficient and emits more
pollutants than a warm engine. So try to plan your travel to avoid multiple trips from
cold starts.
Using your car’s air conditioner sparingly will also help economy. If your car doesn’t
have air conditioning, you will save fuel by having the windows up and using the
ventilation system when travelling over about 50 km/h. Travelling with the windows
down over 50 km/h increases the car’s aerodynamic drag.
Sensible driving techniques will not only help you save fuel, they will also reduce wear
and tear on your car’s brakes, tyres and the other mechanical parts, saving more
money on running costs.
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Care for Your Car and Save
Proper servicing and maintenance of your car will help to ensure its longevity and
reliability. It will also help to keep it running at its most efficient and that means less
fuel use and less air pollution.
It’s particularly important to keep the engine correctly tuned, filters in good
condition, the fuel and ignition systems operating correctly, and to regularly change
the engine oil using the correct grade of oil as recommended by the manufacturer. If
your car is fitted with a carburettor, ensure the choke is correctly adjusted to prevent
the car running too rich and wasting petrol.
Keeping the tyres correctly inflated is vital too. Tyres that are low on air pressure
have greater rolling resistance and that means your car’s engine works harder, using
more fuel. Correct tyre pressures will also ensure safer, more secure handling and
better tyre life. Check your tyre pressures weekly when they are cold.
The correct tyre pressures will be found in the owner’s handbook and on the tyre
placard (normally found on the inside of the glove box door, or on the driver’s door
opening or fuel filler flap). These are the minimum pressures. Setting the pressures
slightly higher will normally improve both fuel economy and vehicle handling. For
more information on tyres ask for our free brochure, Facts on Tyres for Passenger
Your car will also be more energy efficient if the wheel alignment is correctly set and
the brakes aren’t dragging. Again it’s a case of less rolling resistance.
Carrying unnecessary weight around in the car also increases fuel use. So take a look
in your car and see if it has become a mobile storage cupboard for things such as your
golf clubs, heavy toolboxes, and other assorted junk. A clean out might be in order
for the sake of your wallet.
Attachments to the outside of the car, such as roof racks, increase wind resistance
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and thus fuel consumption. So removing roof racks and the like when not in use will
help the fuel economy figures. For the same reasons, load roof racks carefully to help
minimise wind resistance.
Think Transport Options
It’s obvious - the less you use the car, the less fuel used. So it’s worth considering the
pros and cons of alternatives such as public transport, car pooling, walking or riding
a bike. Ask yourself if the trip is really necessary. If you have more than one car, save
fuel and use the smaller more fuel efficient one, when practical.
Converting to LPG
LPG as an alternative automotive fuel can offer advantages, including reduced fuel
costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions. However it isn’t recommended for all
engines and the economic viability of converting to LPG will depend on several
factors. See our Fact Sheet on LP Gas.
Choosing Another Car
When next you choose another vehicle, you should think critically about your
motoring needs. A car that is bigger and more powerful than you really require will
end up costing more in fuel and other operating costs. When choosing between cars,
also compare their relative fuel efficiencies and factor this into your decision-making.
A label fitted to the windscreen of new cars, 4WD’s and light commercials will help
you to compare the relative fuel efficiency vehicles. View vehicle fuel consumption
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figures as tested to Australian Standard 2877 for various makes and models.
If you are considering a medium to large 4WD, ask yourself if you really have
sufficient use for this style of vehicle, as the cost of owning and running one can be
considerable. Their fuel consumption is usually high due to their combination of
large mass, lower gearing, larger engine capacity and relatively poor aerodynamics.
Servicing costs can also be high.
If yours is a two car household, consider making one of these a small car and use it
whenever practical, in preference to the other larger car.
Fuel Saving Devices
There never seems to be any shortage of devices on the market whose makers claim
will improve your car’s performance and save buckets of fuel.
Given the huge amounts of money spent by car makers to improve the fuel efficiency
and power output of their engine designs, one could be a little sceptical of the
claims made for many of these bolt-on aftermarket devices. With carmakers actively
competing to offer buyers more economical, lower emission cars, it’s worth noting
that to this point in time, none of them have made any of these bolt-on fuel savers
original equipment on their vehicles.
Aftermarket devices that can be scientifically proven to save fuel would certainly be
worthy of consideration. But tread cautiously if you are considering purchasing a fuelsaving device, we suggest you check to see that the maker’s claims can be supported
by valid and repeatable scientific tests, preferably to some recognised industry or
relevant Australian Standard. The economics of installing such a device should also be
considered prior to purchase: How long will it take for any fuel cost savings to cover
the cost of installing the device?
RACQ provides Motoring and Travel services Queensland-wide and Insurance in Queensland & Northern New South Wales.