Reduce the Rising Cost of Fuel

Posted on by Melanie of Redbourn Auto Solutions

With the rising cost of energy to heat and light our homes, and fuel rising exponentially, it is even more important that we review our spending where we can.  So, is there any way we can help ourselves when it comes to using our cars and reducing the cost?

As the age-old adage says ‘look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves’.  It won’t remedy everything, but it’s a good place to start…

Here are some suggested steps:

Driving style – Review your own driving style and it can make a difference to fuel consumption and save you money as well as be more environmentally friendly.

A few years ago, a trial with AA staff revealed that by taking a few steps, in a week they saved 10% off their fuel bills and the best saved and impressive 33%, so it’s worth a go! 

Drive smoothly and accelerate gently – Avoid unnecessary braking by reading the road ahead and allowing yourself the time to decelerate smoothly by leaving the car in gear and releasing the accelerator in time.

Change up gears earlier – Some cars have an indicator on the dashboard to encourage use of most efficient gear.  For those who haven’t, the AA recommend changing gear at around 2,000rpm (diesel) or 2,500rpm (petrol), to prevent labouring the engine.

Keep rolling – by reading the road ahead, it may not be necessary to stop completely.  Be aware of traffic ahead, or traffic lights, and slow down early to avoid stopping and starting which uses more fuel.

Idling –Don’t switch off to save fuel unless your engine is warm, and you’re not expecting to move for 3 minutes or so (and you know you have a good battery!).  This doesn’t apply to intelligent cars with stop/start as they have components and systems that ensures they will restart and operate efficiently.

Adhere to the speed limit – The faster you go, the more inefficient your fuel use.  The AA say driving at 70mph you’ll use up to 9% more than at 60mph and up to 50% more than at 50mph.  And if you take it up to 80mph, you can expect to use 25% more fuel than at 70mph.

Reduce your reliance on electrics – If you don’t need them, turn them off!  There is a tendency to forget when we have used the car facilities such as the rear window heater, or the demister fan.  As soon as they have done their job, turn them off.

Air conditioning – this doesn’t necessarily need to be on all the time.  At lower speeds it can increase fuel consumption, but barely noticeable at higher speeds.  Use of windows could be better around town.  However, for the system to remain efficient and working, it needs to be used at least once a week.

Don’t coast – it can be tempting when you’re trying to reduce your fuel consumption, to coast down hills out of gear.  This leaves you unable to control the vehicle and react quickly to presenting situations.  In any case, it doesn’t save any fuel as the car has already done this for you.  Your car only uses fuel when it is needed.  When you take your foot off the accelerator, the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) cuts the fuel supply to the injectors anyway, so there is nothing to be gained.

Reduce Drag – A car travelling at any speed uses a specific proportion of fuel to overcome drag.  Cars are built to be aerodynamically efficient, so anything added to the car increases drag and therefore fuel used.

Therefore, if you are not using your roof box, roof rack, bike rack, etc make sure they are removed before you travel to reduce your fuel consumption.

Also think about unnecessary weight in the car such as superfluous luggage in the boot.

Tyres – When replacing your tyres, look at their ratings.  All tyres are rated for fuel efficiency, wet grip, and noise levels and help with the efficiency of your driving style mentioned above.

Fuel efficiency – The energy lost when a tyre is rolling is referred to as, ‘rolling resistance’.  Lower rolling resistance reduces fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.  Just like your kitchen appliances, they are rated between A – G.

Wet grip provides you with information on the ability of the tyre’s grip on wet roads.  Tyres with excellent grip (A rating) have shorter braking distance.

The tyres exterior noise levels are expressed as decibels.  The greater the decibels, the noisier the tyre.

As well as selecting the right tyre, make sure all tyres are inflated to the right pressure, and have been balanced.  If they are wearing unevenly, make sure all 4 wheels are alignment checked as they could be pulling against each other.

Due to many global external influences, there has been a shift in competitive edge away from online retailers, so it is worth speaking to your local garage first before you make a tyre purchase… and the odds are they can fit it the same day, so you’re not inconvenienced either!  This is especially a contributory factor to those with electric cars where the weight of the car expediates tyre wear.

Fuel – Without stating the obvious, fuel is currently at an all-time high.  Shop around to make sure you are paying the lowest price.  Supermarkets have been synonymous with lower fuel prices, but don’t forget some of the independent fuel stations who are also very competitive, should you have one near you.

If you can, make sure you don’t need fuel when the motorway is the only choice!  Supply and demand mean they are exceptionally high.

Purchasing a car – If you happen to be looking for a new car, it is worth considering:

Cost of servicing – the bigger the car, the higher the cost of regular servicing

Cost of repairs – parts are more expensive for different makes and on some cars simple jobs such as changing a light bulb involve removing the bumper!  Cars are primarily designed for aesthetics, comfort, and efficiency and not so much thought given to the ease of repairs!

Fuel type – petrol/diesel/electric?  This decision isn’t just about cost, but you may also be considering the environment.  If considering electric, make sure you have a choice of where it can be serviced/repaired.  Independents are notably cheaper than main dealers, but not many currently have the knowledge to support you.  Check before you buy.

Technology – Over the last 10 years, technology has marched on at a rapid rate.  We now have Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems, such as park assist, active cruise control and sensors and cameras that detect close objects.

More wires and sensors, and a more sophisticated onboard computer, lead to more complex and sophisticated diagnostic requirements and regular calibration.

The equipment needed is more expensive than before, the knowledge of the technicians is paramount and if you are unlucky enough to need any of it replaced, it comes at a higher cost.  For example, the reverse sensors are often mounted on the bumper which was originally designed to diffuse impact, but now also carries sensors and the associated wiring.  It could mean it is more cost effective to replace the bumper rather than the sensor that may be damaged.  The same is true when wing mirrors break.  Sometimes you can replace the mirror, on other occasions it requires a complete wing mirror complete with wiring and repeat indicators!

Parts – We have covered previously about the impact of the quality of parts that are used.  Cheaper parts tend to wear quickly or fail to work or just don’t fit properly.  They can be very tempting but can lead to paying for subsequent rectification work, a replacement part, as well as the labour to fit them.

As manufacturers race for the most efficient cars, they have started making cars with aluminium parts which is much lighter than the traditional iron or steel.  However, aluminium is an expensive metal and when a part fails cannot be replaced for a cheaper steel alternative as it would put too much stress on other components.  Although the use of aluminium started with premium brands, it is expected it will be extended across a wider market even recycling old car parts for new ones.  Its eco-friendly, but costly currently.

Regular Maintenance – Make sure you follow a regular servicing routine to ensure the cars efficiency, optimise its environmentally friendliness, and prevent unnecessary higher repair costs.  This is recommended by all manufacturers, consumer, and motoring, organisations, so it’s difficult to ignore or understand why people do!  A service is not the same as an MOT.  An MOT checks the visual safety of a car on the day of the test, a service is an in-depth check of parts for wear and tear to ensure they are safe for the coming year and also replacement of oil and filters.  An MOT tester is prevented from removing parts, which makes this harder to judge.

Choose your garage wisely.  – ‘You get what you pay for’ is certainly true here.  Weigh up the pros and cons.  Garages should be able to demonstrate a mix of abilities and qualifications which enable them to have the experience and knowledge to work on your car.  Remember technology moves on very quickly and cars are no different.  If your regular mechanic does not maintain their expertise, it becomes out of date very quickly.

So, if your car is the only method of transport available to you and you want to feel you are doing all you can to reduce your fuel costs and become more environmentally friendly, you can by:

Driving appropriately
Remove anything that may cause drag
Consciously choose tyres for their fuel efficient
Shop around for Fuel
Choose a car to your budget and technological requirements and remember to include maintenance costs (including cost of parts)
Regularly servicing your car to manufacturers schedule