8 ways to improve the fuel efficiency of your car

Kwik Fit | Thursday 18th February 2016 10:38am

filling at petrol pump

Running a car can be an expensive business especially when it comes to the cost of refuelling. Increasing fuel prices over the past few years have seen many drivers turn to other modes of transport to make essential journeys. However, as I write this, the local forecourt is offering fuel for just 99p per litre and average fuel prices are the lowest theyíve been since June 2009 according to the RAC Foundation. These are good times for car owners and our own independent research has found that, on average, motorists are using their cars to travel an extra 950 miles per year than they were two years ago*. 10% of the drivers we asked said they were able to make journeys they might otherwise have avoided due to the price of fuel.

Lower fuel prices are one thing, but there are plenty of other ways to help reduce the fuel consumption of your vehicle and get more from a tank of fuel. Here are our top 8 tips to help improve fuel efficiency.

1. Check your tyre pressure

Checking tyre pressure

Make sure you check your tyre pressure regularly. Tyres generally lose air naturally at a rate of up to 2 PSI every month. Ensuring the air in your tyres is topped up not only prolongs the life of the tread but also improves fuel efficiency as there is less rolling resistance with the road. If the tyre is deformed due to lack of air, youíll be using more fuel to provide motion because of the added friction with the road. Check your vehicle handbook or the sill of the driverís door to find out the manufacturers recommended tyre pressure for your car.

2. Lighten the load

Overloaded vehicle

Weight is a major factor in how much petrol you use. The heavier the vehicle, the more fuel is needed to provide motion. This is especially the case when urban driving in stop-start traffic. Itís very easy to get into the habit of using your car as a storage space. However, on average, an extra 50kg of weight in the car will increase fuel consumption by 1-2%, therefore, itís best to only carry the essential things you need. So take those golf clubs or the pram out of the boot if you donít intend to use them.

3. Use air con sparingly and re-gas regularly

Air con controls

It is recommended that your air-con system is regassed every two years. When your air-con refrigerant is low, your air-conditioning system will start to blow warmer air into the cabin. This in turn means your air-con system will work harder to produce cold air but to no avail. This additional effort places greater strain on the vehicleís engine and, as a result, your car will be using more fuel. Also, try to avoid excessive use of your air con when stuck in traffic. Engines have to work harder in stop-start traffic so using the air con will only add to this strain and use more fuel. In slow moving traffic, rolling down the windows is a much better choice.

4. Get a wheel alignment check

Wheel alignment display

Correct wheel alignment has several benefits, most notably one of safety. Having an alignment check annually helps your tyres to wear evenly and last longer. In fact it can add up to 12,000 miles to the life of the tyre. Meanwhile tyre balancing ensures the tyre spins evenly around the axle where the tiniest weight imbalance can lead to uneven tyre wear (not to mention a nasty vibration through the steering wheel). The lesson here is that even tyre wear around the circumference of the tyre reduces rolling resistance with the road which, as we already know from tip 1, helps to improve the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. Make sure your wheels are aligned regularly and wheels are balanced every time a tyre is removed.

5. Service your vehicle regularly

Pouring oil into car

Routine maintenance is one of the best ways to ensure your car remains in the best shape and runs at the optimum levels youíve come to expect. Old spark plugs tend to misfire whilst motor oil degrades over time making it less effective in doing its job of lubricating the moving parts of the engine. Replacing spark plugs and regular oil and filter changes all reduce the burden on your engine and help to provide improved MPG.  A full service includes all of these items plus a series of essential checks and should be carried out annually or every 12,000 miles (whichever comes first).

6. Watch your driving style

Blue Volvo

Your car isnít the only factor in improving fuel economy; you have a big part to play as well. Adopting bad driving habits such as speeding and excessive acceleration at high revs will almost certainly have an effect on your fuel consumption. If your vehicle comes with cruise control, using it will help to maintain a constant speed and make best use of your fuel. Sudden braking will also have a detrimental effect on your MPG so make sure you leave an adequate space between yourself and the vehicle in front so you are not constantly hitting the brake pedal.

7. Look for the EU Tyre Label

EU tyre label

Tyres account for up to 20% of your carís fuel consumption so itís important to choose the right ones. All new tyres purchased in the UK come with an EU Tyre Label which is there to help you make an informed choice when choosing a new tyre. Tyres are rated in three categories: Fuel Efficiency, Wet Grip and Noise. Fuel efficiency is rated on a scale from A to F with an A-rating being the best result possible. These tyres require less energy to roll and therefore burn less fuel. So if you want new tyres with good fuel economy, look for the EU Tyre Label for guidance.

8. Use a fuel system cleaner

Applying fuel system cleaner

Tank-treatment fuel additives such as BG44K are an inexpensive way to restore performance and MPG and can be poured straight into the petrol tank. Deposits can build up in the fuel tank over time leading to problems including engine surge, stalling and power loss. Fuel system cleaners contain high quality detergents and additives which eradicate deposits in combustion chambers, intake manifolds, ports and on valves and restores flow in fuel injectors, effectively cleaning the entire fuel system.

* ICM Research carried out among a nationally representative sample of 2008 GB adults

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