Saving Fuel, Money & the Environment…By Sandy Myhre

The following guest blog post is by Sandy Myhre, first woman member NZ Motoring Writers’ Guild…

If there’s a current buzz-word around fuel saving it’s green.  And yet there’s an dichotomy in operation here.  As motor companies compete furiously amongst themselves to produce the most slippery, fuel-efficient, and politically correct alternatives to gas-guzzlers, it’s simply not in the interests of an oil company to have you save fuel!

It is, though, in your own interest and even if you can’t afford an electric car yet, there are ways of helping the planet and your wallet at the same time.  It’s not science, it’s sense, and it starts from the ground up.

1.Check your tyres:

If tyres are under-inflated the poor old car is made to work hard to propel you forward.  Ask your garage what the optimum pressures are for your car and squirt in the air.  It’s free!  You’ll be saving fuel by having those tyres working at their best.

Believe it or not the only reason tyres have grooves is because it rains. The grooves are specifically and scientifically designed to push away the water.  A very quick test for tread depth is to stick the end of a Bic pen into the groove.  If the pattern doesn’t meet the end of the click part, you seriously need to get new tyres – and do it fast.  Lack of tread grip hinders your ability to corner and to stop, it  can jeopardise your life and someone else’s and makes your car struggle for its very existence.

Under-inflated tyres make your car work much harder.

2.Home check oil and water levels:

Once again, if the car’s engine is lacking oil and water, it labours at best or, at worst, can simply die.  Check the dipstick regularly and fill her up in the privacy of your own garage with one of those take-home oil packs.  Check the water while you’re at it.  All it takes is stuff from a tap.

It’s surprising and puzzling that so few of us bother to do this at home and there are a myriad excuses.  Or chat up your local service station workers or garage owner and get them to do it for you.  Some service stations are really good at this, others prefer you do it yourself.  Take your pick but above all, just do it.

3.On the road:

Some late model cars have dashboard indication as to the best time to change gears but let’s face it, most of us don’t drive the latest state-of-the-art models.

If your car has a manual gearbox there’s a great deal of fun to be had by driving to best practice especially if you have a rev counter.

Drive on your revs more than your speed.  That doesn’t mean dawdling, it means check how brutal you are with the accelerator.  You’ll guzzle up the gas if you’re thrashing the accelerator to maximum revs when you take off or even when you’re driving along a straight road and come to a corner.

Treat your accelerator and your gear changes as tenderly as you would a baby.  Let the car work for you and imagine there’s an egg under the accelerator.  You’ll be surprised how much fuel you can save by being aware of what your right foot is doing.

In a car with an auto-box it’s trickier to assess your revs but once again it’s interesting to see how modified driving behaviour can aid fuel saving.  Be gentle, gentle, gentle with your right foot.  Why would you not?

4.Cornering:

It’s amazing how many people come to a corner, jam on the brakes, and then accelerate around in the belief that (in front-wheel-drive cars) it’s better to power around.  It probably is for racing and rally drivers but that’s not what you are!  Think ahead, decelerate and guide your car tenderly around the corner, using the apex to assist your momentum.  You’ll get around the corner just as easily as if you’re thrashing the thing and you’ll save fuel at the same time.

5.Cruising:

If you have cruise control on your car, use it. It’s far more intelligent that you are because it’s computer-controlled.

If you don’t have cruise control, practice it all by yourself!  Keep a steady foot on the accelerator and the wheel.  Don’t do anything in a rush or in a jerky fashion, smoothness is all.

Use cruise control if you have it.

6.Traffic Lights:

Professional economy drivers will turn off the car’s engine if they think they’re going to be sitting at the lights for more than a minute.  Yes, it can be a nuisance when you aren’t in an economy rally but, actually, doing it now and again is good practice, if only to save fuel.   Test yourself for fun over a period of a week and see how it works.

7.Luggage Loads:

How much junk are you carrying in your car?  Seriously, if you gathered up all the stuff that’s lying around the seats, the floor and the boot and weighed it you’d be surprised at the result.  Imagine yourself carrying around three or four extra kilograms of weight and picture how you’d feel.  Your car is absolutely no different.  Blitz excess weight like books, dog blankets, newspapers, discarded water bottles, cans, the kids’ rugby boots, the garden spade you’ve carried around for weeks, whatever – and save fuel.

8.Air Conditioning:

Yes, air conditioning is essential when it’s 40 degrees outside but what about when it’s not?  Do you really need to have gas blowing into your car each and every day of the year?  Even if you drive without air conditioning for half an hour you’ll save fuel.  And have you ever thought about going all old-fashioned and, you know, winding down a window now and again?  Try it for fun and the bonus is, you’ll be taking just a little more care of your gas bill and the environment.

9.Clean Cars Are Happy Cars:

It’s an old adage that a cleaner car goes better.  There must be a sceptic somewhere who disagrees with this but logic dictates.  If your tyres are gummed up with mud, if your car is carrying what could be a kilogram of dust, dirt and grime, if you can’t see properly out of the front windscreen, then for heaven’s sake clean it!   Over the course of six months or so a clean car will save on fuel.

A clean car can save on fuel.

Of course the ultimate fuel saver is to get a push bike or, at least, a moped.  But it’s not entirely practical on numerous occasions so working with what you’ve got, sensibly, is the next best alternative.

In the end, the biggest guzzler of fuel is usually the nut behind the wheel.

About the Author: 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sandy Myhre –
  • First woman member of NZ Motoring Writers’ Guild.
  • Former British economy driving record-holder
  • Current New Zealand economy driving record-holder
  • Chief Judge, Women’s World Car of the Year
  • Editor, Focus magazine, New Zealand

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