9 ways to skip that trip to the petrol station

Story by Benjamin G. Kline
7 Nov 2014

Pump prices are on the upward trend and with the recent toll hikes, governments on both ends of the causeway are making it economically unfeasible to fill up in Malaysia. Avoiding lead footed inputs on the accelerator is just one of the ways you can improve your fuel economy. 

The economy figures printed in brochures are usually obtained under laboratory conditions and with a computer controlled throttle input. Both of which are hard to match in real world conditions. Getting perhaps 80% of the claimed economy figure is considered quite an achievement.  

Here are 9 things you can do to knock those dollars off your monthly petrol bill.


1. Ease it in and ease it out

Car control isn’t all about diving into a bend with superman aplomb. In reality, the most fundamental aspect of driving well is the ability to drive smoothly. That’s the first thing they drill into you at any professional driving school. Gently feeding in the brakes while easing off the accelerator and vice versa. Just remember, the higher the engine revs, the more fuel you’re burning. Always grab a higher gear if possible when you’re cruising.  A fringe benefit of this is a smoother drive and a smoother ride for your passengers 


2. Look far to get further

Economical driving is all about energy management. Using your brakes too often would mean you’ll have to accelerate more often as well to get back to your intended cruising speed. Avoiding unnecessary braking means you’ll need to read the traffic in front of you and that also means looking a few car lengths ahead. If you see tail lights starting to light up four to five cars ahead, easing your throttle means less braking. Sometimes letting the car coast to a lower cruising speed is all it takes.


3. If you don’t need it, dump it!

We’ve all seen it before or may even be guilty of it ourselves. A boot filled with a box of car wash equipment or unnecessary tools. I’ve even seen a female friend with a trunk full of shoes once. While these individual items might not weigh much, together they could add up to the weight of a passenger. Imagine driving around all day with a freeloader in the back? All the while burning that extra bit of fuel for things that you only occasionally need. We say dump it! 


 4. Don’t be a drag

Running out of fuel can be such a drag and well drag can be a drag too (Yes, we know we used ‘drag’ three times in the same sentence). Ever wonder why race cars have their windows wound up even though there’s no air-conditioning in them? Well keeping drag to a minimum sits above driver comfort. We’re not suggesting you drive with the air-conditioning off and windows up but what we’re saying is that driving with the windows down and air-conditioning off actually consumes more fuel. Better to just turn the air-conditioning to a lower setting and keep those windows up!


5. Keeping it clean

Yes! Keeping your car clean does have an effect on fuel consumption. Particles that get stuck onto your body work creates drag and in the long run affects your car’s aerodynamic efficiency. Besides getting better mileage it helps with your personal image too. Why not jump on this double whammy to impress your dates?


6. Cruise mode

Don’t think there’s a need to touch the cruise control button here in Singapore? Think again. The cruise control function helps in reducing consumption. Compared to the intermittent input of your foot, the car uses the minimum amount of fuel and a constant gentle input to maintain the desired speed. Nothing more, nothing less. If you’re lucky to own a car with an active cruise control function like the new Hyundai Genesis, you’ll have even more chances to keep your foot off the throttle!  


7. Keep it hard!

It’s alarming when I find out how many of my friends don’t do this. Keeping your tires adequately pumped has a direct effect on your fuel consumption. An under inflated tire creates friction and rolling resistance. In layman terms, your engine will need to work that much harder to get those wheels turning and thus burning more fuel in the process. The correct tyre pressure should be written in your owner’s manual or on a label pasted on the door sill. Check those tires once every two weeks to ensure they’re at the optimum pressure.


8. Know where you’re going

When I first started driving in 2006, I was hopeless in getting anywhere in a car. After two decades of relying on public transport where you only need to memorize the bus number or which MRT line to take, I was suddenly inundated with the task of flipping through the bible thick street directory (Yes, I lived through the analog era). Considering I was just as hopeless reading maps, I probably burnt a quarter tank of fuel just going around in circles. However with the potent combination of smart phones and Google Maps these days, getting around has never been easier. So it helps to take a look at where you’re going to avoid unnecessary rounding sessions.


 9. Going nowhere fast

Traffic jams, what joy they bring to our lives where nearly half the population gathers in one place for an exchange of automotive pleasantries. A honk here, a hand gesture there and even the occasional death stare. No, traffic jams are not fun for anyone and with a burgeoning car population, traffic jams have become the norm for most of us these days.

Being stuck in a jam means your engine isn’t running at its optimum efficiency and if traffic is crawling, you’re actually burning more fuel than if you were moving at cruising speeds. So it helps to avoid jams altogether Once again the combination of smart phones and Google Map comes to the rescue. And with footage from traffic cameras and reports easily accessible in the palm of your hand, there’s no excuse to be caught in one ever again.

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