Fuel consumption depends on everything from the vehicle itself to weather, road and traffic conditions, to the way you drive.
Canadians are well aware of the environmental impact of driving and, according to a recent survey conducted for the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC), 88% of motorists feel a moral obligation to be as fuel-efficient as possible. The question then becomes, “How?”
Here are 16 ways to help you do your part to reduce fuel consumption and thus emissions. The two are directly related – the more fuel you burn, the more CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions go out the tailpipe.
Use the Natural Resources Canada EnerGuide Fuel Consumption Guide to help you make a decision when shopping for a new vehicle. While the fuel consumption numbers found there may not reflect exactly what you will experience in your particular geographic area or your own driving routes or style, they serve as an excellent way to compare vehicles.
Take off that ski rack or roof-top cargo carrier unless and until you are actually using it. That bulky thing sticking up into the air has a debilitating effect on aerodynamics. Manufacturers spend millions to make sure your vehicle slides through the air with as little interference as possible to minimize fuel consumption and wind noise. Don’t waste those efforts.
Take a few moments to clean the junk from the the passenger compartment and trunk as well. The added weight means added fuel consumption.
Make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape - from road to roof. Engine tuneups are pretty much a thing of the past if you follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. But you can think of a modern tuneup as including a close look at wipers, tires, brakes, belts and fluid levels. Check air filters, especially if you have been driving in dusty conditions. They determine how much air your engine receives, air that mixes with fuel and determines fuel economy.
When you put your winter boots in the closet, take off your winter tires too. Using them in warmer temperatures will accelerate wear as well as use more fuel unnecessarily. Save them for next winter. If you don’t plan to use them again and are trying to squeeze a few more months or kilometres from them, be aware they are not meant for warmer roads and temperatures and the little tread remaining means you won’t have as much grip, particularly in the wet. If you’re replacing them with new non-winter rubber, consider those labeled ‘low rolling resistance’, which are designed specifically to reduce fuel consumption.
Tires are the only point of contact between your vehicle and the road whether you are driving a Ferrari or an F150. They are the single most important safety factor and also play a major role in fuel consumption. This is a good time to check for wear, and damage to them and the wheels they are mounted on. If you see an unusual wear pattern it likely means an wheel alignment is needed. The alignment might be off due to hitting a curb or snow bank. Correcting it will save wear on the tires and fuel.
Pay attention to the Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS), if your vehicle is so-equipped. The system is set to signal a warning if the pressure of any particular tire falls more than 25% from that recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. But don’t rely solely on that warning.
With or without TPMS, check the actual inflation pressures regularly to keep them at the levels recommended by the label mounted on a door post or elsewhere on the vehicle. Use those recommended pressures, not the maximum pressure figures on the tire or suggested elsewhere.
Low pressure will accelerate tire wear and the extra heat generated may cause tire failure so there are significant safety considerations. But low pressure means extra rolling resistance and that means the engine has to work harder, burning more fuel than necessary.
If the winters or old all-season tires are worn out, consider replacing them with a set of low rolling resistance tires. This new generation of fuel saving tires have a tread pattern, structure and rubber compound specifically engineered to reduce rolling resistance reducing fuel consumption by 2 - 5% depending on conditions and your driving style.
Before setting out for a drive, plan your route, aiming for fewer stops and starts. Avoid heavy traffic and times when traffic will be higher.
While at the wheel make it a habit to look far down the road. This practiced will not only alert you to upcoming problems that may require evasive action, it will also allow you to monitor traffic flow, easing off the throttle as it slows, instead of having to jump on the brakes at the last minute. You can tell which drivers are doing this in heavy traffic, they are the ones whose brake lights come on less often. Anticipation will allow you to use less throttle and brakes, boosting your fuel economy.
Smooth is the key word to maximizing fuel efficiency. Light, gentle inputs to all controls with your hands and feet, made possible by looking well down the road, will significantly reduce your fuel costs – and passenger anxiety! The biggest gains come from steady speed and gentle acceleration and braking.
Speed costs money. There is a terrific difference in fuel consumption as your speed increases. You may get there a few minutes earlier, but you will pay for it at the pump.
Use your air conditioning system sparingly. The compressor is driven by a belt off the crankshaft, putting an extra load on the engine, which in turn mean burning more fuel. At lower than highway speeds, opening the windows for ventilation is more fuel-efficient than using the A/C.
Avoid allowing the engine to idle for more than one minute or so. An idling engine means you are going nowhere but burning fuel and adding pollution to the atmosphere. Modern engines start immediately and effortlessly. So turn it off while sitting and back on when you need to get underway.
Maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the one ahead increasing that space as speed increases. This will reduce the need for sudden braking and continually adjusting your speed – and thus reduce fuel consumption.
If you are driving a hybrid you are already aware of the environment and the role played by vehicles. But are you maximizing the advantages? Make sure you understand and make maximum use of regenerative braking. By looking well ahead you will be aware of slowing traffic and can let off the throttle, allowing the system to recharge the batteries- which in turn will allow you to drive further on pure electric power.
If your vehicle is equipped with a display of your fuel-economy history, keep it visible. Constantly reminding you of how your driving is affecting your fuel consumption may be the best fuel economy device of all.
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