We now know how to maintain our car and keep more of our money. The way we drive can also be great (or bad) news for our piggy bank. Having a cheap driving focus might not be as much of a compromise as you might think. Coming up are a few tips that I myself use on a fairly regular basis. These tips should not only save you fuel but also save you on repair bills. There may even be a bonus tip thrown in for good measure.
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Lose Some Weight
This applies to the car, before all the complaints arrive. Although looking at myself after the 2020 lockdown, I may also need a bit of work. I have been known to frequently ask my dad to clean out the boot of his Merc C320. More weight means the car needs more power/torque to move at given speed. More power required means greater energy requirements. This in turn means the engine requires more fuel, and our bank accounts become more unhappy with us.
Lighter cars are not only kinder to the environment, but also handle better and can be faster. Note how F1 cars are slightly faster than buses. Reducing the weight in our car also reduces wear on other components, such as tyres and brakes, so they will last longer. As we know, longer lasting components mean reduced expensive replacements. This is one great example of a positive virtuous circle. Everyone wins!
Fill up at Night
This one is beneficial both for mind and money. At night, there are fewer cars generally. Therefore we don’t need to waste fuel idling while we wait for a vacant fuel pump. Switching off the engine only to switch it straight back on again to move 20 yards is bad for battery, engine, gearbox. The list goes on so shrinking the wait time is a solution. Another benefit is that it’s colder at night, so fuel is denser. This means we get slightly better value every time we fill up, and the car will travel slightly further on a tank.
Get in Gear
Being in the right gear is crucial to saving fuel, and reducing pressure on the gearbox and clutch. We need these components to be lasting us as long as we possibly can, as replacement is not cheap. Because of this, I try to avoid sitting on the clutch biting point for too long, as that will wear it out faster. Block changing, where we may miss gears out while accelerating, might also help us here. It has proved useful in my car as the gears are quite close together. We should still ensure that we are keeping the engine near the middle of the range for the greatest efficiency.
Also, when we drive towards a stop light, try leaving the car in a gear (for manual cars). Putting the car in neutral may seem like a way of saving, but the engine uses fuel while it’s idling. Under deceleration in gear, many cars shut off their fuel injectors when we lift off the accelerator. This means little or no fuel is being used. Slowing down in advance also means less time spent stationary, which is more good news for our accounts.
If we know we are going stop at a light for more than around 30 seconds, it might be worth shutting down the engine (assuming it is fully warmed up). Any time spent stationary over 30 seconds means the engine is spending more fuel idling than it does in shutting off and starting again. Be wary of doing this too often, as it is extra work for the battery, which is why some start-stop systems on modern cars stop functioning after a while.
Gently does it
Obviously it’s not practical to drive everywhere at 7 mph. But being gentle with the accelerator puts less strain on the gearbox. This means we are less likely to encounter problems further into the vehicle’s life Being relaxed with the brakes (within reason) is good for their life expectancy. The pads will last much longer, and gentler applications also reduce the wear on the discs. A further advantage is that this is also beneficial for the comfort of any passengers you may have.
It’s a similar story with gentle application of the steering. A smooth application puts less stress on the suspension components and wheel bearings. Any deficiencies in these areas can mean an MOT issue, if not necessarily a failure. However, they can also both be major safety issues if allowed to deteriorate. Therefore it pays to drive in a manner that enables them to last for as long as possible. Anything that’s good for longevity, may also be good for our balance!
We should spend as much time (when in motion) in the vehicle’s torque band as we can. This is the range of engine speeds where the engine is producing the most amount of torque. The car will drive most economically around the lower end of the range. For most petrol drivers, this means around 2000-3000 rpm depending on speed.
When I first started driving, I liked to get a move on, like most. I wasn’t really paying attention to mpg and service costs. I’m on my fourth car now, and priorities have changed. I’m now just as interested in mpg as mph. Age and the economy have made me more money conscious. But there is still a determination not to associate being economical with being boring and dull. No point in any advice requiring too much unhelpful compromise. Who says I have no awareness?
In many cases, I’m enjoying driving more now that I’m not always in a rush. When I visit other places (which I may write about in my blog), a more relaxed driving style allows me to enjoy the car and the location. Before I was only enjoying the car, and driving too aggressively to notice the scenery. Driving smoothly hasn’t slowed me down much, and has meant that I arrive at the destination more refreshed. I don’t get everywhere late either. It can be done!
On a side note, A few people have asked me whether it’s better to get the windows down or use air-conditioning from a fuel saving perspective. The answer? Use the windows at low speed, as the drag increase in minimal there. And use the air conditioning at high speed, where the extra mechanical drag can be negligible compared to the aerodynamic drag that comes with travelling at high speed. So there you have it!
So now we are great drivers! We can now drive with our cars and bank accounts in mind. I’m sure this relaxed approach is good for our well-being too. The environment will thank us later. We are considerate even of other drivers on a good day. But what if we still fancy another car for us to apply all this newfound wisdom to? What sorts of things should we be looking for? What are the potential banana skins? Feel free to read on for some more money saving hints.