How do you squeeze more mpg from your car?

As everyone knows petrol and diesel have become wickedly expensive this year. Even though oil prices have come down a bit we are being hit by a falling Euro and we are still stuck with those massive, punitive taxes that have been piled onto the price by our own government in the last four years.

It is now in the region of €1.60 per litre. That is €80 to fill a typical 50-litre tank. Ouch. If you have to drive any sort of mileage you may well find yourself having to fill that tank three times a month. Ouch indeed.

We advise people to shop around and do what they can to reduce the price they pay but realistically that can only save you so much. But there are things that you can do to reduce fuel use. They can save you a small fortune without costing you anything.

Firstly, lose some weight. Most of us have an amount of clutter that we carry around with us. It could be the odds and sods in the boot. Maybe there is a set of golf clubs or a tool kit in there that rarely see the light of day. Every ounce of weight that you carry will affect your fuel performance.

A very simple check is to look at the tyres and make sure that they are properly inflated. Most of us tend to overlook this and will only actually check a tyre when it starts to look as if it is a little flat. Under-inflated tyres increase rolling resistance and that worsens fuel economy.

If you have a roof rack or a roof box, take it off. Those things are very useful when carrying stuff but a serious drag when they are not. The increase in air resistance is very considerable. The same is true with an open window. It increases drag significantly especially at higher speeds.

The other really big one is the air conditioner. Turn it off. They are seriously thirsty bits of equipment and sadly they are seldom necessary in an Irish summer. For older cars, dating from maybe ten years ago, the difference is extraordinary. It could add between 5 per cent and 8 per cent to fuel use. More recent cars are more efficient but it still makes a difference.

Naturally you should have your car serviced when it needs it and keep it in generally good condition. Most of us treat servicing like we treat a trip to the dentist. We go when we have a toothache, rather than at regular intervals for check-ups. In the same way you are better off servicing at recommended intervals (usually once a year does it ) rather than waiting for a fault that is obvious to the driver.

The most important fuel saving component of all is the driver’s right foot. If you are the type of driver that roars away from one set of lights and then screeches to a halt at the next set then you may as well be taking fivers out of your pocket and setting fire to them. It absolutely burns through fuel.

There is a term that I don’t like very much which is ‘defensive driving’. It is a bit of a misnomer but what it really means is intelligent use of the machine. Use your human brain in conjunction with the technology and drive the car sympathetically.

That means gentle manoeuvres, smoothly through the gears without any harsh acceleration or harsh braking. If the traffic context allows it, keep the car rolling slowly rather than coming to stop and starting again. If you can see that a set of green traffic lights ahead of you is likely to turn before you reach them you should plan to stop by smoothly decelerating down through the gears as you approach.

These are all simple tips that we can all use. Depending on how you are doing at the moment, applying these could cut your fuel bill by as much as 10 per cent. Better that money should stay in your pocket than get blown away out of your exhaust pipe.

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