By Scott Boyd
Scott is a widely published writer with over 25 years’ experience covering the Canadian financial markets.

Simple driving tips to save fuel (and money)!

Help improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and save money with these small changes to your driving habits.

The price of gasoline has been on an upward trajectory for the past few months, and with the prospects of increasing carbon taxes likely resulting in future price increases, motorists are looking for ways to reduce their driving costs. Obviously, buying a more fuel efficient vehicle or even switching to an electric vehicle is one way to do this, but not everyone is in a position to take on the expense of a new vehicle.

Those with large families, or who require a heavy duty vehicle for their job or to deal with harsh driving conditions, have far fewer options when it comes to vehicle choice. However, no matter what you may be driving, there are a few simple things you can do to help boost your mileage without having to trade in your current vehicle.

 

Small changes in your driving habits can make a big difference

In addition to saving money every time you visit the pumps, improving your mileage has obvious benefits for the environment. Light trucks and passenger vehicles account for approximately 11% of Canada’s total carbon emissions, so any improvements you can make in your own driving will go a long way to helping the environment.

In fact, a new movement known as “hypermiling” has emerged, where like-minded drivers adopt a whole range of tactics to increase their mileage. The good news is that you don’t have to go to the extremes of some of these hypermilers to make a big difference. By following some of the tips outlined below, you’ll find that with little effort, you can realize significant savings.

1. No jack rabbit starts

Cars are heavy, and it takes a lot of energy to get them moving once stopped. Accelerating smoothly will reduce the amount of fuel required to get your vehicle moving and up to speed. That’s why voiding aggressive starts is one of the more effective things you can do to improve your mileage.

2. High speed equals low mileage

Just as it takes a lot of energy to get your vehicle moving, it takes energy to keep it moving. That’s because the wind resistance increases as your speed increases, so your engine has to work harder – and burn more fuel – to overcome this resistance.

Just how much of a premium will your lead foot cost you? According to windfallcentre.ca, for every 10 km/hour you go over 100 km/hour, overall efficiency drops by 10%. To put that in practical terms, if your car burns an average of 9 liters of fuel for every hundred kilometers when driving at a steady speed of 100 kms/hour, and if gasoline is $1.30 a litre, it will cost you $11.70 to travel 100 kilometers.

Now, if you were to crank your speed up to 120 km/hour, the resulting 20% decrease in efficiency will cost you an additional $2.35 to travel that same 100 kilometers. This may not seem like all that much, but if you log 15,000 kilometers of highway driving each year, you could potentially save over $350 simply by limiting your speed to 100 km/hour.

3. Steady as she goes

Just as a higher rate of speed can impact your vehicle’s mileage, so does constantly varying your speed. To maximize fuel efficiency, try to keep your speed as consistent as possible.

Modern cruise controls do a great job of maintaining a stable speed. They are now electronically integrated with your vehicle’s engine management system and can hold a constant speed much more effectively than earlier mechanical cruise controls.

 

Making your vehicle more efficient

Keeping these driving tips in mind will help you reduce your fuel bill, but don’t forget about your vehicle itself. Short of swapping out your V8 for a smaller engine, there are a number of simple things you can do to help your vehicle operate more efficiently.

1. Keep tires inflated to correct pressure

Have you ever tried to pedal a bicycle with underinflated tires? If so, then you already know just how critical it is to have properly inflated tires. A tire that is underinflated by as little as 8 psi results in a 4% decrease in your vehicle’s efficiency!

Nevertheless, according to the Transport and Infrastructure website, 70% of all vehicles in Canada have underinflated tires. Making sure your tires are properly inflated is the number one thing you can do from a maintenance standpoint to help your vehicle operate more efficiently. And the best part is you don’t have to be a mechanic to check and inflate your tires.

There’s really no excuse for not keeping your tires properly inflated. Not only will you save on fuel, but keeping your tires properly inflated extends the life of your tires so you’ll save even more by not having to replace your tires as often.

2. Ditch unnecessary weight

It only stands to reason that the more you carry in your vehicle, the more energy is required to move that extra weight. Whether it’s your hockey equipment, bags of salt or camping gear that you just never bothered to put away, you’re paying more to carry it around. If you don’t need it, lighten the load and save yourself some money.

3. Drop the drag

Depending on the style, roof racks not only add weight to you vehicle, but they also interrupt the flow of air over your vehicle and add drag resistance. In order to overcome this resistance, your vehicle’s engine will be forced to work harder and use more fuel.

A study by Berkeley Lab, which conducts research for the U.S. Department of Energy, found that some roof racks can increase fuel consumption by up to 25%. Cargo box-style roof carriers with a relatively flat front are the most drag-inducing, but any form of obstruction will add some degree of resistance.

4. Keep your vehicle maintained

It should be obvious that a properly maintained vehicle will operate more effectively than one in poor repair. Modern vehicles are highly sophisticated machines, and mechanics today spend as much time behind a keyboard attached to your car’s computer as they do twirling wrenches.

It may be tempting to try to save a little money by skimping on your vehicle’s maintenance, but this is a false economy. Spending a few dollars on preventative maintenance will ensure trouble-free motoring down the road, while helping your vehicle run more efficiently.

 

 

 

This post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not to be considered financial advice. Always do your research before making any investment decisions.

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