In India, the most common query about any car is “Average kya hain?” It’s a valid question, since fuel isn’t getting any cheaper. And a more fuel-efficient engine is a greener engine. In a bid to make more fuel-efficient cars, manufacturers employ all the technology and tricks at their disposal, including the use of lighter materials, tyres with less rolling resistance and technologies like cylinder deactivation and idle stop. Yet, clever engineering and technology can only do so much. Here’s what you can do to get the most out of every drop of fuel, and keep money in the bank.
First things first. If you want to save fuel, you must be able to measure it. Some cars today give you real-time fuel consumption readout, but they tend to be a bit optimistic. Start with a full tank and zero your trip counter. The next time you go to the pump, fill up again to the brim. Make a note of the number of litres you put in, and the trip reading. Divide one by the other and you will get the kilometres travelled per litre. Zero the trip again and keep a note of your consumption calculation. Every time you fill up, make a note of your fuel consumption. Once you have four to five calculations, you can figure out the average fuel consumption of your car.
It’s good practice to keep a record of your car’s fuel consumption.
The most critical part of your car’s fuel consumption is you. Drive smoothly with a light foot. If you are drag racing at traffic lights, you are wasting fuel. If you are going flat out on the highway, you are wasting fuel. For example, driving at 100kph, rather than 80kph, means that you are using more engine power to overcome drag, and that means the engine is consuming more fuel to do it. If you are braking hard, you are wasting fuel. Try and moderate your speed so that you can brake less. If you see that a traffic light ahead is red, don’t race up to it and come to a complete stop. Control your speed so that you can get there as the light turns green. You save fuel because it takes more energy to get you going from a complete stop rather than from a slow roll.
Also make sure that you are driving in the right gear. If you are in a higher gear at a low speed, or in a lower gear at high speed, you are wasting fuel. If you want good fuel economy, shift up as early as possible without straining the engine.
Driving smoothly with a light foot is key to getting high fuel economy.
To get maximum fuel efficiency, make sure that you are running the correct air pressure. As you may know, underinflated tyres will rob your car’s fuel efficiency. But why?
First, let’s understand what is rolling resistance. Rolling resistance is the force resisting the motion when an object is rolling on a surface. For example, if you roll a free tyre, it stops after a while. This is because the rolling resistance is slowing it down steadily, without anything to counter it. Now, a certain amount of energy created by the fuel being used is needed to counter rolling resistance of the tyres. A lot of things affect rolling resistance, like the diameter of a tyre, its width, speed and the surface of the road. Driving on sand will create more rolling resistance than driving on tarmac. So you will burn more fuel driving on sand than tarmac.
The larger the contact patch the more the resistance. So if your tyres are underinflated, they increase the contacts patch with the road and that means more rolling resistance and more fuel burn to counter it. So its always important to regularly check tyre pressure, and this can save you some bucks too.
And while you are at it, make sure that the tyres are balanced and aligned as they too play a role in this.
Upsized tyres look cool, but come at the expense of fuel economy. Larger tyres are heavier and every extra kilo will, in essence, decrease a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. And the wider the tyre, the higher the rolling resistance, and the harder the engine has to work to move the tyre, thus decreasing the car’s fuel efficiency.
Now here is something to think about. To make cars more fuel efficient, manufacturers do everything they can to cut weight. Every extra kilo makes the engine work harder. If you want the maximum out of every drop of fuel, clean up the junk in your car. The sports kit lying in your trunk, those knick-knacks stuffed into your glovebox and every other useless thing lying in your car. Think light. And while you are at it, go on a diet.
Get rid of all the junk from your car.
Following the ‘think light’ theme, what about reducing the weight of your wheels? Generally, alloys weigh less than steel wheels. They not only increase your fuel economy but also give you more usable power since you are reducing the unsprung weight and the engine has to waste less energy in turning the wheels.
Maintenance and other tips
Here’s a fuel saving tip that’s really easy to follow. All you have to do is make sure you follow the car’s service interval. Get your air filter cleaned, change the engine oil and follow the maintenance recommendations of the manufacturer. If you are driving in a particularly dusty environment in an older car model, get the air filter checked more frequently. This is what prevents your engine from getting clogged with dust and dirt. If the filter is clogged, the engine has a harder time sucking in the air. To compensate, the engine management system will make the mixture richer and use more fuel to keep the motor running.
India is a hot country, and an air conditioner is a vital piece of equipment. Yes, while the air conditioner does increase fuel consumption, it’s better to turn it on and roll up the windows at higher speeds. Fully, or even partly, open windows create drag and impact fuel efficiency. So, contrary to popular notion, you will save more fuel with the windows up and the air conditioner turned on. Plus, you will be more comfortable.
Also get your vehicle serviced regularly. These are little things that add up to big savings.
This is not really about getting more mileage, but rather getting more fuel for your money. If you are filling up your tank, do it early in the morning. Petroleum products expand when they are warm, so, due to this expansion, you end up with a lesser percentage of fuel for the money you’ve paid, if you’re filling up in the afternoon or during the day. In the mornings, however, when the temperature is cooler, fuel is denser. So when you fill up in the mornings you get more bang for the buck.
Now here’s something obvious. Don’t use the car when you can walk. If you are going to a busy, congested area where parking is difficult to find, you might want to park a little distance away and walk to your destination. It’s not only healthier, you also don’t have to deal with the congestion at your destination.
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