Fuel Efficient Driver Training | ECSA

Fuel Efficient Driver Training

Tips to save money whilst driving

The average driver racks up around 10,000 mile a year, so even small improvements to your fuel economy will add up into big savings.

Know where you're going? Before setting off, look at how you can get to your destination. Using a sat-nav can help you take the most direct route.

Not so fast! Drive at a consistent speed and don’t accelerate suddenly. A car uses the most amount of fuel when under acceleration. Setting off and slowing down gradually will not only save you fuel but also cut down on wear of the clutch, tyres, and engine. This also applies to when you are up to speed - feathering the throttle to keep the car at a constant speed using tiny adjustment is better than completely taking your foot of the throttle and then reapplying the throttle to speed back up. Sometimes it is better to slow down, relax and enjoy the drive.

Braking up the wrong tree. Care about your braking. When you brake you turn all the energy used to accelerate into waste heat energy. The harder you stamp on the brake the more heat is create. This heat can cause the disks and pads to heat up and this can lead to increased wear. Push the brake gradually to slow the vehicle. Careful observation and anticipating hazards will also make it easier to break earlier.

Lift and coast. Another way of saving fuel is using the 'lift and coast' method of slowing down. This has been used in motorsports for decades. When you approach a junction, rather than braking, simply take your foot off the throttle while keeping the car in gear. The drag from the air acting on the car will slow it down. You should do this carefully, well in advance of your final stopping point, and in conjunction with normal breaking. This technique reduces fuel use, and also means that when you do brake, you will have less wear as your brakes are working at a lower speed. Be careful of other cars tailgating. This technique slows down without showing your brake lights to other cars. If someone is too close behind your, or not paying proper attention, you may have an incident. If you think the car behind is to close lightly push the brake and your brake light will come on. This will tell the other driver you are slowing down and should act accordingly.

Under pressure. Having your tyre pressure at the correct value is vital for saving fuel but also for keeping your car on the road in hazardous conditions. Under-inflated tyres have an increased contact-area with the road. This can lead to more resistance between the car and the road, making your engine work harder and use mroe fuel. On the other hand, if your tyre is overinflated you reduce the contact-area with the road. This can increase the chance on you losing control (especially in wet or icy conditions). You should also check the tread on your tyres - by law all your tyres should have at least 1.6mm of tread on them. Check your handbook or tyre sidewall for information on your cars optimum tyre pressure.

Car healthcare. Servicing is also vital for your car. It keeps it running smoothly and efficiently - and thus ensures it doesn't have to work as hard and uses less fuel. You can easily learn online how to do a basic service yourself - e.g., changing the oil and engine filters. This will also help you save money on maintenance costs.

Over-encumbered? A car is really useful for transporting bulky or heavy items - but you should avoid carrying excess weight where possible. Leave anything you don't need on that journey (roof rack? child seats?) at home. Reducing your car's weight by even 10kg can save you fuel. If you want to really try and save weight, you could only fill your tank to its half-way point. This can save between 20kg and 40kg of weight, and thus fuel. Only do this if you know you will have enough fuel for your journey, and if you know where fuel stations are along the way - you don't want to get stranded.

Feeling the heat? If you feel hot when driving, is it better to use air-conditioning (A/C) or open a window? Both A/C and opening a window with increase the workload on the engine - the first uses more energy, the second increases air-resistance. But the severity of the impact on fuel depends on context:

  • Below 50mph, for example in stop-start city driving, it is generally better to open the window than to use A/C.
  • Above 50mph, it is generally better to use A/C, as opening a window creates a lot of drag on the car. At that speed the engine has done its main job of accelerating the car, so you can spare some power for the air conditioning.
  • If you have a car with a small power output (80bhp and below) then using the A/C will have a big impact on fuel-economy. If you have a car with a bigger power output (100bhp and above) then having the A/C on will have relatively less of an impact on fuel economy.
  • You want to cut as clean a hole through the air as you can. The more drag created by your car means the more the engine has to work. Have a spoiler might look cool and help you on the track, but on the roads it will only cost you money and fuel. Even having a dirty car can increase drag! Little things like this can make a big difference over time.