Car Care: Petrol costs - fuel for thought
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Drivers' habits changed on fuel-efficiency tests
Over the years I have been involved in many fuel efficiency test drive programmes and also talked to some of those entrepreneurs who, when fuel prices increase, claim to have invented an additive to reduce fuel consumption on any car, whatever the age.
The other noticeable fuel saving promotion that floats to the surface on occasions is inflating tyres with pure nitrogen. The claimed benefits of the nitrogen fill can be varied and range from reduced tyre wear, less leakage, reduced tyre rot, better ride qualities and of course reduced fuel consumption.
Well this week's column is not about trying to prove or disprove those or any other fuel saving theories because often they do actually make a positive difference. No, this week it's more about the reasons why I believe some motorists can experience savings at the pump.
Where there is a cost and the customer is expecting and wanting a positive outcome, improvements actually occur.
Driving techniques suddenly change and speed is monitored more closely and visits to the gas station are eagerly awaited followed by lots of head scratching as fuel consumption is calculated.
In my days organising fuel efficiency tests, it was not unusual to see competitors achieve well under the respective manufacturers' claimed fuel consumption figures on a regular basis. Why?
Because the majority of drivers were fiercely competitive and desperately wanted to beat their mates and were trying to achieve respective class honours for the particular new vehicle distributor they were representing.
Their whole focus was on saving fuel. I remember the wife of one husband and wife team saying she wasn't allowed to touch anything, talk, listen to the radio or move around in the car during each stage of the fuel efficiency tests.
That example may be completely over the top, but the point is that the more one focuses on achieving a positive result then the better the chance there is of it actually happening.
Don't forget also, any fuel saving promotion is likely to have an ongoing cost. In the case of the nitrogen-filled tyres, you can forget about using the free tyre gauge at the gas station to recheck pressures.
To retain the claimed benefits, nitrogen will have to be added and that won't be cheap or done for free.
So my challenge to readers is to make a conscious effort to reduce your fuel consumption at virtually no cost - the only change will be in your driving technique or habits.
To help get you started here are some tips. Firstly go and check/reset your tyre pressures (remember atmospheric air is made up of around 78 per cent nitrogen anyway) then start concentrating on how you drive.
Avoid heavy and sharp braking - pretend there is an egg under the throttle pedal as it will encourage smooth acceleration; stick to the speed limit; avoid short trips on a cold engine; and get rid of any unwanted weight in the vehicle.
If your vehicle doesn't have a dash fuel consumption readout, then a great way to keep an eye on how much fuel you use is at www.fuelly.com
You enter your vehicle's details - be it motorbike, SUV or hatchback - and each time you fill up your car, enter how many litres of fuel you fill it up with, and how much it costs.
You then reset your odometer and start driving.
After three refuels you will start getting a fuel consumption average.
Not only is it a great way to monitor your fuel usage, but seeing how much you've spent on petrol will be alarming enough that you'll want to drive more economically.
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