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5 quick tricks to improve your fuel economy

5 quick tips to improve your fuel economy

Few things hurt your pocket more than constant trips to the pumps, but a more frugal fuel consumption can be achieved by simply changing your driving style and performing basic vehicle maintenance.

You're also much more likely to be better off nursing your current car than splashing out on a new, more fuel efficient motor, as by the time you recoup the cost from fuel savings, we’ll probably all be travelling by teleportation.

In the meantime, here are our top five ways to keep your fuel habit under control.

Fuel economy tips: 01 Show it some love

A badly maintained car can have an unhealthy desire for juice. Dirty air and fuel filters won't help fuel economy or engine performance, while neglecting an oil change can cause premature piston ring wear, thereby reducing engine efficiency. Poor wheel alignment is a shortcut to increased tyre wear, rolling resistance and fuel consumption.

Sticking brake pads are another route to more slow than go, and worn wheel bearings can up friction as well. Finally, there's the age-old question of whether supermarket fuel is less efficient than big-brand juice. The answer is no, as aside from extra engine-cleaning additives, fuels with the same octane ratings will perform identically.

Fuel economy tips: 02 Take it easy

Revving out an engine to the max is plainly bad news for fuel economy, yet driving everywhere in a high gear at very low RPM can result in an engine's ECU injecting extra fuel to prevent stalling. As is often the way, balance is best. Feel for the sweet spot in each gear where your engine pulls comfortably without labouring, yet isn't revving excessively.

Once in top gear on the open road, your car will have an optimal speed for best fuel economy. For most 5-speed cars, this will usually be between 50 and 60mph. Vehicles with more gears can increase this slightly, but the extra air resistance at speed means staying below 70mph is a must for fuel-saving.

Fuel economy tips: 03 On a roll

Coasting is a great way to save fuel, but should you stay in gear? Coasting with the clutch down eliminates engine braking, but at the cost of using some fuel to keep it idling. Alternatively, engage a gear and most electronically injected engines will completely cut the fuel supply, though the mechanical drag that's introduced means you won't coast as far.

The trick is to use both methods, staying in gear while rolling to a stop or descending a hill, and coast with the clutch down for maximum distance. Once stopped, if you suspect you'll be stationary for more than 10 seconds, switch off your engine and it'll use less fuel restarting than it would if you'd left it idling.

Fuel economy tips: 04 Forward planning

There's little point in blasting past a slower car when you can see traffic further up the road, and try coasting down to lower speed limits or junctions rather than braking when you reach them. A less obvious cause of poor fuel economy is the weather. A cold snap can easily up consumption by 10%, so if you have a garage, give your car a warm home, not your clutter.

And while you're having a clear-out, don't forget inside your car. Hauling any extra weight will make your engine work harder, but don't be tempted to ditch essentials. A jack and spare wheel aren't light, but they're a more reliable combo for fixing a flat than a can of tyre sealant.

Fuel economy tips: 05 Under pressure

Running tyre pressures that are too low can noticeably increase fuel consumption. Just think of the increased leg work required to cycle with soft bike tyres. But getting the pressure right isn't as simple as pumping up to the maximum PSI rating moulded on your tyre's sidewall. That's likely to bulge your rubber, lowering grip levels and increasing wear around the central section of the tyre.

Instead, inflate to the pressures listed in your vehicle's handbook. While usually significantly lower than sidewall ratings, expect front tyres to require more pressure than rears to compensate for engine weight, though back tyres may need to be pumped higher should you regularly carry heavy luggage