Saving money on fuel

The single most popular topic I’m repeatedly asked about is fuel saving tips. Fuel is just one of the costs that make up your total cost of driving but it always seems to weigh on people the most. Maybe it’s because the other costs like vehicle payments, maintenance, repairs and insurance tend to be more predictable.

There are many apps available for your smartphone that will help you save on fuel. GasBuddy seems to be the most popular and most reliable. The app helps you find gas stations with the lowest priced fuel and allows you to rate fuel stations.

GasBuddy reports that it has saved users $3 billion thanks to users reporting fuel prices. However, this function is dependent on users inputting local prices and this isn’t being done regularly in our market. This function would be more useful in bigger centres.

The app also helps you identify fuel-wasting driving habits and allows you to check your vehicle for factory recalls.

Saving money on fuel starts with your own driving habits. This begins with your speed. Speeding really hurts your fuel economy. It’s estimated that fuel economy can be increased by as much as 15 per cent by driving under 100 km/h. Quick acceleration is another enemy of good fuel economy.

Watch and adjust your braking habits. Re-acceleration after braking reduces fuel economy. Enable your overdrive if you have the feature. This will increase fuel economy at higher speeds by using a higher gear. Avoid idling if not necessary. Idling uses more fuel than you may think.

Many newer vehicles also may have an available dash display that shows current fuel economy. Try having this displayed, and watching what habits and behaviour effect your fuel economy positively or negatively.

Beyond your driving habits, the condition of your vehicle can also greatly affect your fuel economy.

Keep your vehicle regularly serviced so it’s running optimally. Fuel filters, sensors, and injectors all need to be clean and working properly. Get any warning or check engine lights looked at immediately.

Ensure you always have a clean air filter. Replacing or cleaning your air filter regularly will have a positive effect on fuel economy. Some estimate as much as a 10 per cent improvement.

It’s imperative that you keep your tires properly inflated. Low tire pressure increases the rolling resistance of your vehicle and will negatively affect fuel economy. Properly inflated tires can increase fuel economy by up to 3%. Tires can lose 1 psi per month, so it’s recommended that you check your tire pressure at least once a month if not more often. To remember, combine this with another chore like taking out the garbage. Maybe every time you put your black container out, you check your tire pressure. There are many very easy to use gauges available that will display the reading digitally.

Lighten your load. Weight is a bigger deal than you may think with stop and go driving. An extra 100 pounds affects fuel economy by one to two per cent.

Check what your actual fuel needs are and follow them. If your manual says to use regular and you’re using premium you may be adding unnecessary costs to your fill up that will negatively affect your fuel economy.

Remove the box on your roof rack when it’s not needed. More drag on your vehicle will result in more fuel consumption. Even aerodynamic roof boxes or bags cause drag.

Avoid using the air conditioning if it’s not necessary. Using the A/C causes the engine to work harder and thus lessens fuel economy.

Avoid idling if not necessary. Idling uses more fuel than you may think. Some newer vehicles will actually shut the engine off at stops to avoid idling and increase fuel economy.

Determining your current fuel economy is relatively easy to do. Next time you fill up reset the trip odometer located by your gauges. Then drive as you normally would until your next fill up. Then divide the number of kilometres driven by the number of litres it took to refill your vehicle. This is your current fuel economy.

Putting the kilometres driven and litres it took to fill up into the smart phone app Fuel Economy Utility makes it easy to see your fuel economy in both miles per gallon and litres per 100 kilometres.

Try changing some of your driving habits and see what it does for your fuel economy. Changing your driving habits and keeping your vehicle properly maintained could very likely increase your fuel economy by 15 per cent. That could save you hundreds of dollars a year. It’s a simple choice.

Catch Driving, with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.

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