Fuel prices are infamously volatile, often fluctuating at the drop of a hat from month to month. And when it costs well over £1 per litre to fill your car, making sure you get the most miles out of every tank of fuel matters.
Luckily, you don’t have to shell out on a more fuel-efficient car to feel the benefits. Improving your fuel economy and saving money is simply a case of changing your driving habits and learning a few new tricks and techniques.
In this guide, we’ll talk you through the most effective ways to help your money and miles per gallon go further.
Making sure your car stays in shape is a good starting point for improving fuel economy. Like our bodies, taking care of your car ensures it’ll perform at its best, allowing it to be more efficient, more reliable, and cheaper to run in the long run.
It might seem like a hassle, but replacing things like dirty air filters, worn out spark plugs, and old engine oil will all help to improve your MPG. And keep an eye on your wheel alignment too. Wheels that are out of whack can negatively affect your fuel economy, and even potholes in the road can be enough to mis-align them, so have them checked as regularly as you would your engine.
The correct tyre pressure is essential. Not only can the incorrect pressure be dangerous, but your fuel costs will also soon mount up too.
If you’ve been driving around on tyres at the wrong pressure, your car will end up chewing through more fuel just to get you from A to B. Make sure they’re pumped up at the right pressure – they’ll last longer this way too.
If your car’s packed with excess items, the heavier load will cause it to use more fuel during your journeys. Clear out the boot and backseat of anything that might be weighing you down.
The same goes for roof boxes and bike racks. These items create wind resistance and cause your car to use more fuel through the ‘drag effect’ – and the faster you go, the more this drag will increase. If you’re not hauling bikes or extra gear around, remove the racks and make your money go further instead.
If you’re used to putting your foot down, then your fuel isn’t going to last. Excessive speed burns through fuel, so a gentler approach is needed if you want to improve fuel economy.
Instead of putting your pedal to the metal every time you accelerate, take it easy. Looking to achieve high mpg? Try this: drive in the highest possible gear for your vehicle while staying within the speed limit. If you’re in urban areas, try changing through the gears as quickly as you can with the lowest revs possible – usually at around 2000rpm. This should help you find your optimum fuel economy speed.
Decelerating by lifting off the gas early and braking gently will also help your fuel economy too.
If you’re in the habit of driving around on a full tank, then you’re having to haul around this added weight. And since some fuel tanks can carry up to 109 litres, that’s a lot of excess weight to cart about.
Instead, try filling up with only what you need. So you can correctly judge the right amount of fuel, keep a notebook in the glove box or use your phone to keep tabs. As you fill up, write down the amount of fuel you need for a given journey (in litres, since the price of fuel is always changing).
It’s a bit fiddly compared to the other tips on this list, but if it’s peace of mind you’re looking for, it’s highly recommended.
If your car is idling at a standstill, then you’re using fuel without moving. In other words: you’re getting zero miles per gallon from your fuel – and paying for it.
If you’re in the habit of letting your engine run, whether you’re waiting to pick someone up, stuck in a traffic jam, or waiting in line for fast food, then turn it off if you want your fuel to last longer.
Many modern cars have stop/start technology that turns the engine off while the vehicle isn’t moving. If your car has this function, then make sure it’s turned on.
Anything that uses the alternator to charge the battery (which is powered by the engine) will need fuel to work. And your car’s air con most certainly uses fuel.
If you’re used to keeping it on during slower journeys around town, then you’ll increase your fuel consumption by around 5-7%. It’s far better to open the window at low speeds instead.
However, if you’re driving fast on the motorway, then it’s actually a better idea to close the window and turn the air con on, as this reduces drag and improves the vehicle’s aerodynamics as a whole.
Certain drivers believe that coasting – putting the car in neutral while going downhill – will reduce fuel consumption due to the lower rpm. While it may have done so in cars from the 80s and earlier, it’s not the case for modern vehicles.
Their electronic control units (ECUs) use less fuel when going downhill by cutting fuel injection to the engine, which instead relies on the drive line to turn itself over rather than any fuel.
Either way, we’d also always advise against coasting. You have less control over your car and you’re likely to travel faster as you go downhill – which is a lot less safe than leaving your car in gear.