How to drive your car more efficiently | AA Cars

Driving your car more efficiently can save you an awful lot of money every year. Not only will you spend less on fuel, but parts will suffer less wear and tear in the long run – meaning your new car can stay in a better condition.

Also known as ‘hypermiling’ or ‘eco-driving’, these techniques can help cut how much fuel you use – while also reducing emissions. It also means you can keep running costs down and save money after buying a new car.

Change gear earlier

For manual cars, shifting up earlier can reduce fuel usage as the engine won’t be running at higher revs. According to the Energy Saving Trust, shifting up under 2,500rpm in petrol cars and 2,000rpm in diesel models can help cut fuel usage.

But make sure not to labour the engine as that can cause long-term damage – something you don’t want for your new car.

Skipping gears or ‘block shifting’ can also help reduce fuel consumption.

Accelerate and brake smoothly

By anticipating what other road users will do and situations down the road, you’ll know when to accelerate and brake safely – and it’s efficient too.

Leaving a large enough gap between you and the car in front means you won’t have to brake as harshly. And by driving away from junctions smoothly, you can keep fuel usage down.

Let friction be your friend

Use the engine to help you brake and slow more progressively. Take your foot off the accelerator and let the friction of the tyres and engine help slow the car for you. This also cuts wear on the brakes. 

By anticipating the traffic ahead, you’ll have a good idea of when to use this technique. Never free-wheel by keeping the clutch depressed, though. It’s highly dangerous because it disengages the engine. Also, don’t coast as you have less control. 

Avoid high-speed roads where possible

If you use roads with a lower speed limit, the engine won’t need as much fuel. According to the Energy Saving Trust, vehicles travelling at 60mph use 15 per cent less fuel than those driving at 70mph. Basically, the quicker you drive, the more it’ll cost you in fuel.

Speed limiters and cruise control are great at helping you manage fuel economy when you’re on motorways.

Plan your routes

Looking for routes with less traffic and longer stretches without stopping can help keep fuel use at a lower level. Going through towns and stop/start traffic affect your car’s miles per gallon (mpg) figure massively. This can help you save money and help you buy your next car.

Use air conditioning sparingly 

Air conditioning systems use engine power to cool the air down, which means using more fuel on top of powering the car, so where possible open the window instead to get cool air circulating – a car’s aerodynamic efficiency isn’t affected by open windows until the vehicle reaches 40mph. If you do need to use the air con, keep it to short bursts.

Maintain your car 

Keeping your car in good condition can only help efficiency. Make sure the oil, coolant and brake fluid are all at the right levels and that tyres are at their correct pressures – under-inflated tyres can reduce efficiency, with Michelin finding in 2015 that British drivers wasted a massive £246m a year because of them.  

Take out any extra weight and reduce drag

If the car has to carry additional weight, the engine will always work harder, and if the engine works harder, it’ll use more fuel. Only have essentials for the journey in the car – otherwise, leave it at home.

To improve the car’s aerodynamics, remove roof boxes and roof racks when they aren’t needed. They make it less streamlined – again meaning the engine needs to work harder and potentially costing you in the future.

Turn the engine off when possible

If you’re in traffic and going to be stationary for 3 minutes or more, turn the engine off. Many cars come with automatic start/stop systems now, but if yours doesn’t, turn it off yourself. When a car is idling, its engine uses more fuel than it needs to and it might even overheat.

Follow your car’s advice

If your car comes with gear-change recommendations or an mpg display, follow them. Sensors and computers work these out for optimum performance, so the closer you follow this guidance, the more efficient your driving will be.

Or, you could drive less

Funnily enough, if you don’t use your car, you won’t use any fuel! If you don’t need to drive, don’t – try to use other methods of travel. You could walk, cycle or take public transport instead, which keeps cars off the roads and means lower emissions and less fuel being used.

It also means your car is likely to be in a better overall condition when you choose to sell it on.

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