Eco driving tips
Save fuel, money and the environment with our eco driving techniques
The more fuel your car uses, the more every jounrey will cost you. That’s not so much of a problem if you’re willing to spend extra on fuel in the name of spirited driving, but ultimately, the more money you spend at the pump, the more time you give up at work in order to fund your car’s fuel consumption.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of five eco driving tips to help you save time and money. You’ll also be doing the environment a favour, as it goes without saying the more fuel your car uses, the more exhaust fumes it’ll produce.
1. Keep your car in eco-friendly condition
Our first eco driving tip needs attending to before your car’s wheels turn. Make sure your tyre pressures are all in accordance with your car’s handbook, as underinflated tyres increase fuel consumption by as much as 6%.
Next, if you’ve a roof box, bike rack or removable roof rails fitted, and they’re not being used, take them, off. The larger the profile of your car, the harder the engine has to work to move it through the air.
Be sure your car is serviced on time. Keeping its oil fresh and at the correct level will ensure the engine runs as cleanly and efficiently as possible.
2. Change up a gear as soon as possible
If your car has a manual gearbox, keeping the revs down and the gears up will ensure the engine isn’t burning unnecessary fuel. You could also consider ‘block shifting’, which means skipping fourth gear, for example, and changing straight from third to fifth. If your car has an automatic gearbox, keeping it out of sport mode will also reduce your fuel consumption.
3. Drive smoothly and plan ahead
A car consumes fuel most heavily when it’s accelerating and the more harshly you accelerate, the more fuel your car will use. If you’re able to minimise the amount of time you spend braking and then accelerating, you’ll be driving as economically as possible.
In practical terms, this means maintaining as steady a pace as possible over speed bumps and cushions, estimating whether you’re going to need to stop for traffic lights or queuing traffic, and slowing gently. Some eco ‘hypermilers’ recommend taking the car out of gear (if it’s a manual) and coasting, but this isn’t a great idea, as you won’t be in full control. Modern engines are designed to use almost no fuel when your foot’s off the accelerator, anyway.
4. Avoid short journeys and air-conditioning
Engines work most efficiently when they’re fully warmed up, so short five-minute journeys will do you no favours if saving fuel is the name of the game.
While the engine uses more fuel when it’s warming up, air-conditioning uses fuel when it’s cooling you down. These systems are essentially small fridges, which obviously require power to run. So turn off the A/C unless you really need it.
5. Switch off your engine if feasible
Automatic stop-start systems are becoming commonplace these days, but if your car doesn’t have this feature, you could consider switching it off when stopped in traffic. There are a couple of caveats to this, though: firstly, you need to be sure your battery is in good condition, as repeated starts will strain it. It’s also a bad idea to turn your car off before the engine has warmed up, as it’ll take longer to reach peak efficiency (see number 4). Those conditions aside, if you think the traffic is so bad you’re going to be stopped for more than two minutes, it’s probably worth turning off the engine.
And if low-cost motoring is your priority, head over to our list of the top 10 cheapest cars to run.