Last updated in November 2020
There are many effective ways to conserve fuel. Driving is convenient and necessary for some but petrol costs can quickly add up. Some car expenses are fixed and you cannot influence them, for example, essential maintenance.
However, some costs are more under your control such as fuel. You can look out for the cheapest petrol station near you. Or you can take it once step further and find ways to conserve fuel.
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Table of Contents
7 ways to conserve fuel
1. Drive less frequently
The fact that driving less frequently can help saving fuel is obvious. Nonetheless, it is the most effective of the ways to conserve fuel.
If you live in an area with good public transport links, consider whether it is worth taking the bus or train over the car. However, be mindful of the prices. Depending on where you live, public transport may be more costly than driving.
Alternatively, you could cycle or walk. Not only will this benefit the environment, but you will also have some exercise. Carrying heavy shopping bags may be annoying but can replace your gym visit.
If you live too far away to walk or cycle to places, it may be worth considering a move. Being overly dependent on your car makes you vulnerable, for example, if you have a breakdown or cannot afford petrol for other reasons.
The most common reasons people cannot simply drive less are having small children, having a disability, or work reasons. If this applies to you, or you have other reasons, then you can still save fuel though.
2. Close your windows
Driving with open windows increases your fuel consumption. This is because open windows increase wind resistance. In other terms, they create drag. Therefore, your engine has to work harder to move the car forward.
Closing your windows means your car is more streamlined and will need less fuel as the engine works less hard.
Bike racks, extra antennas or other accessories also create drag. Removing these items will improve your fuel efficiency.
3. Turn off the air conditioner
Turning off your air con is another of the ways to conserve fuel. This is because the air con needs power to work. Obviously, that power comes from your engine. The engine has to work harder meaning it will need more fuel.
If you want to save fuel, you have to close the windows and turn the air con off. This works fine in winter but we all know that during summer, the heat would be intolerable. Thus, you have to make a decision. Should you open the windows or turn on the air con?
Closing windows vs. turning off the air conditioner
Luckily, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has done some research into this. Their results are as following:
As you can see in the images above, the air con is the worst offender when it comes to fuel consumption. This is true for sedans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
However, the difference is more apparent for SUVs. If you drive an SUV you may want to think twice before turning on the air con, especially at high speed. The other conclusion we can derive from this research is that if you live in a hot area, an SUV is probably not a good car for you.
4. Keep your tyres well inflated
Tyres can affect fuel consumption due to their rolling resistance. The concept is quite simple: Imagine you are rolling a wheel. A perfectly smooth one will roll much easier than one that has bumps in it. Less effort translates to lower fuel consumption.
Tyres naturally lose pressure, about one or two pounds per square inch (PSI) every month. Thus, if you are not regularly inflating your tyres, you are likely to waste fuel.
Keeping your tyres inflated is easy. Most petrol stations have pumps you can use for a small fee. If you are worried about people watching you mess up, or if you have a lot of tyres to inflate, consider buying your own tyre inflator:
You probably will not need to use a tyre inflator every day so this a tool that can easily be shared amongst neighbours or friends.
5. Ways to conserve fuel – use a fuel additive
Using a fuel additive can reduce your car’s fuel consumption. Fuel additives clean out the engine and injectors, resulting in fewer residues that prevent your car from working efficiently.
However, Whether you should use a fuel additive depends on you and your car. The value from fuel additive varies between a waste of money and an engine’s lifesaver.
If you have a new car, there likely will not be any residues. Equally, if you buy premium fuel, you will not need an additive as it is already added to the fuel. Fuel additives will have the most value for old cars run on ordinary petrol.
If your car accelerates more slowly than it used to, this is an indicator that you need a fuel additive.
6. Change your driving habits
Your driving style influences your fuel consumption. Hence, there are ways to conserve fuel by driving more economically. This is includes your speed.
It is a common myth that driving more slowly increases your fuel efficiency. In reality, most cars use the least amount of petrol when driving between 50 and 60 miles per hour. So you should not drive too fast, but also not too slow.
Another approach to save fuel could be to brake less. Every time you brake, you throw money out of the window as your engine has already produced the speed (and thereby consumed fuel). This is a double-edged sword though as not braking can endanger your life and that of others.
7. Draft behind other cars
Drafting means driving closely behind other cars, preferably lorries to reduce your air resistance. This means your engine will have to work less hard to move you forwards as you are taking advantage of the engine power of the car in front of you.
Note that driving closely behind other cars is dangerous. The car in front of you may suddenly stop and you may crash. You also cannot see whether there are any obstacles on the road, especially if you are behind a lorry.
Drafting behind other cars should be seen as last resort to save fuel.
Ways to conserve fuel summary
There are many ways to conserve fuel. In particular, you could:
- Drive less frequently
- Close your windows
- Turn off the air conditioner
- Keep your wheels well inflated
- Use a fuel additive
- Change your driving habits
- Draft behind other cars
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