There are way too many things to stress about in life, but petrol shouldn’t be one of them.
Did you know that just driving better and keeping your car in good condition can save you fuel?
If you want to lower your petrol costs, you’ll find it’s the little things that go a long way. South Africans are paying more and more for petrol each year, and it doesn’t look like things will get easier any time soon. Howard Nkohla, technical
advisory manager at Engen, gives us a few tips on how to go further on your tank (without sacrificing air conditioning).
Tip: Join a lift club if possible. This won’t only help you save fuel and reduce wear and tear on your car, it can also
be a great stress reliever, giving you the freedom to relax while someone else is driving.
1. Easy, Tiger
Morning school rushes can be pretty hectic: you’re trying to get your toddler bathed, dressed, and fed, and pack lunch for everyone, while calling your teenager for the umpteenth time to get out of bed. With only 20 minutes until school starts, you now have to turn into an F1 driver. Unfortunately though, the faster you go the more fuel you’ll burn, not to mention the added stress of rushing everywhere. Driving faster means aggressive driving filled with sudden acceleration and braking. According to Ford, smooth driving can slash both fuel and emissions by 25%, as well as prolong the lifespan of your brakes and tyres.
2. Pump your tyres and check your wheel alignment
‘Under-inflated tyres cause increased resistance between them and the road, which in turn leads to higher fuel consumption and increased wear and tear on your tyres,’ says Howard. ‘Plus, bad wheel alignment causes more friction, which takes more power to overcome and results in higher fuel consumption.’ Check your wheel alignment at
least every six months or even more regularly if you frequently drive on roads with potholes.
3. Minimise idling time
During the cold winter months, most people turn on their cars for a few minutes before leaving, in order to warm up the engine for the heater. But this actually wastes petrol. ‘Time spent idling while your car warms up is costing you money. Don’t let your car idle for more than a minute.’ Plus, the longer you leave your car idling, the more emissions go out into the environment. For parents travelling with young kids, stash a few small blankets in the car to keep them warm while the engine heats up.
4. Service your car regularly
Make sure your vehicle is serviced regularly. ‘Things like worn spark plugs, sticky brakes, low coolant levels, dirty oil, and dirty fuel/air filters all add to the engine’s inefficiency, which leads to increased fuel consumption,’ says Howard.
Using the right oil for your car, which is recommended by the manufacturer, will keep your engine’s lubrication system in tip-top shape. You should find the recommended grade of oil and fuel in your owner’s guide.
Tip: ‘Optimise your journey by ticking off several tasks in one long trip, rather than taking many short trips,’ says
Howard. If you need to go to the supermarket, hair salon, and visit your parents this weekend, try squeezing it
all into a Saturday. That way, you’ll also have the whole of Sunday to relax and prepare for the new week.
5. Shed the weight
No, not yours, your car’s. As a mom, your car’s probably full of extra jackets, soccer boots, sports bags, school
projects, spare school jerseys and everything else that can fit inside a boot. Carrying extra weight causes your vehicle to pull heavy when moving, therefore using up extra petrol for the effort. Limit the load to just the necessities – items like jumper cables, a car jack, tyre-changing tools, and an emergency kit. If you’re an adventurous family who regularly go on road trips, try attaching items like bikes to the rear of the car, as putting them on the roof adds more wind resistance.
6. Keep your windows closed
In a country where temperatures can reach boiling point, this is the last thing anyone wants to hear, but open
windows cause the car to drag, and increase resistance, resulting in high fuel consumption. It’s better to keep
your windows closed, especially when travelling at a high speed.
7. Don’t get caught in a jam
Maintain constant speed as far as possible by flowing with traffic and timing your approaches to hills and traffic lights better, so as to avoid slowing down excessively, only to use more fuel to increase speed again. Stay a bit later in the office or leave earlier in the morning to avoid heavy traffic. If you have it, activate your cruise control if it’s safe to do
so (don’t use cruise control in rainy weather) and set it at your car’s most fuel-efficient speed. This could save you up to 6% in fuel consumption on the highway, says Howard.
Tip: Don’t rest your foot on the brake pedal while driving. The slightest pressure puts mechanical drag on components, wearing them down prematurely; and this dragging also demands additional fuel usage to overcome the drag.
93 vs 95 does it really matter?
You’ve probably heard all types of theories regarding 93 octane unleaded vs 95 octane unleaded petrol, such as: one is better than the other because it’s higher quality, therefore lasts longer; or, even though it’s more expensive, you’d be saving money in the long run because your tank won’t empty as quickly. It’s time to finally settle the debate: Which is better? Well, according to Howard, one isn’t necessarily better than the other.
There are no noticeable advantages in using one over the other. Octane is a measure of a fuel’s ability to resist ‘knock’. Knocking is the explosive or uncontrolled combustion of fuel in an engine’s combustion chamber, which can very quickly destroy an engine.
Octane, added to your fuel in the right amounts, will prevent knocking. Therefore, what matters is using the right octane fuel for your specific engine to help it run correctly, and limit the chances of damaging your engine through
Your vehicle owner’s manual or handbook includes the manufacturer’s recommendation for the minimum octane fuel
number your engine will safely run on, so check the handbook first before using the higher version, as the higher the octane, the higher the price. Some engines perform better on high-octane fuels while others show no obvious benefit.
Using a fuel that has a higher octane number than recommended will not hurt your engine, but you’ll be paying more
than you need to. The higher the fuel’s octane number, the more resistant it will be to knock. Having said that, as a rule of thumb, if you don’t know which octane level is suitable for your car, it’s advisable to use a higher rather than a lower octane to resist knock.
FEATURE: NOLWAZI DHLAMINI PHOTO: FOTOLIA.COM