With gas prices at an all-time high, here are the best tips to squeeze as much as you can out of every litre.
With the way that gas prices have been steadily increasing, this has been a popular inquiry that we get at our service desks. We’ll review some tips on how to get the most out of your fuel, and share some interesting facts and data to show how you may be wasting fuel without even knowing it. The best part is most of these tips are free – our favourite kind. So, let’s get started:
Stay calm while driving
Aggressive driving and rapid acceleration from a stop are two bad habits that raise your fuel consumption, up to 33% on the highway and 5% around town. Driving smoothly and within the speed limit not only saves you money on gas, but also wear and tear on the vehicle which could lead to costly repairs. Using your cruise control can also help, as this keeps your vehicle at a constant and steady speed.
Keep your vehicle aerodynamic
Those automobile engineers went to school for many years, so they know a thing or two about aerodynamics! If you drive on the highway with your sunroof open, windows down or with a huge carrier box or bike rack on top, this will increase your vehicle’s aerodynamic drag – leading to a 5% decrease in fuel efficiency. People also ask if they use air conditioning at highway speeds, will it increase their fuel consumption? I tell them the benefit of the reduced drag offsets the slight fuel increase when the air conditioning compressor is in operation. Not only that, but you save your eardrums from the wind noise; although, if you have children and it’s the 90th time they’re asking, “Are we there yet?”, you might want to open those windows……
Maintain your vehicle
Yes, I know this one is cliché, but it still holds true. Low tire pressure is a big one. A major tire manufacturer did a study on tire pressure and found that if your tires are 20% underinflated – approximately 5-7 psi – you are using 10% more fuel. Make sure you are up-to-date on your maintenance. Not only is a well-serviced engine running at peak efficiency, but other factors can contribute to fuel consumption. Have your brakes inspected. A sticking or seized brake caliper will not only decrease fuel efficiency, but would be dangerous should your brakes wear out prematurely or overheat and fail to stop you when you need it the most. A stuck-open thermostat will cause your vehicle’s on-board computer to use a different fuel map than if it were at normal operating temperature. A clogged engine air filter will reduce the engine’s combustion efficiency. A faulty oxygen sensor may increase your fuel consumption by as much as 40%! Care for your vehicle, and it will take care of you.
Use the correct weight of engine oil or switch to a lower viscosity if your manufacturer allows it.
This is a new tip that has arisen the past few years, as we are seeing more and more manufacturers switching to lower viscosity oil in their engines. When I was twisting wrenches, 10W30 was the standard oil. We are now seeing factory fills of synthetic 0W20. This change is all to help with the vehicle’s rated fuel consumption. If there is less internal drag, this would in turn increase its operating efficiency. Check with your OpenRoad service department to see if your vehicle is able to use lower viscosity oil. I know of a few manufacturers who have supplied their service centres with cross reference charts on oil compatibility. If you can use thinner oil, it could save you 1-2% on fuel costs.
Plan your trip or carpool
If you can plan out your errands in the most efficient way, you will save on fuel costs. Try to organize your stops so you don’t backtrack. A vehicle uses less fuel if it’s constantly kept at operating temperature, rather than if it’s left to cool off and later restarted again. As for carpooling, share trips with somebody else to cut your fuel and vehicle wear-and-tear costs in half, plus maybe sneak in a little nap time on the commute. If you want to be a little more green, try biking or walking if your destination allows. Not only is it good for your health and the environment, but you can prolong that tank of fuel a little bit longer.
Expert Tip: Measure your tires monthly
One-third of Canada’s 21 million vehicles have at least one underinflated tire, and only 30% of drivers measure their tire pressures monthly. Why should you check your tire pressure monthly? Safety, the environment and dollars – it all adds up.
Did you know?
• Canadian drivers wasted $722 million in unnecessary fuel bills in 2011 just because one or more of their tires are underinflated. This is enough fuel to power 275,000 vehicles for a full year and will release an additional 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
• Underinflation can reduce the life of your tires by 15,000 kilometres. This leads to more vehicle costs and more scrap tires for disposal. 59% of drivers make the serious mistake of relying on visual inspection to make decisions on tire pressure. In fact, a tire can be under or overinflated by 20% or more and still look normal.
• 26% of owners wrongly believe that the pressure stamped on the sidewall of their tires is the recommended tire inflation level. In fact, this is the maximum pressure a tire can contain under maximum load.
The Good News Solution
• Have an accurate tire pressure gauge on hand.
• Know your proper tire pressure from your vehicle owner’s manual.
• Measure your tire pressure monthly and you’ll be on your way to a healthier and safer drive.
Written by Cameron Ma, Service Director at OpenRoad Lexus Port Moody. Cameron is a previous National Service Advisor Skills Champion for Lexus and Toyota Canada, and a Red Seal-certified automotive service technician—he knows a thing or two about vehicle maintenance. When not taking care of guests’ needs, you can find Cameron tinkering with his old Toyota MR2 or shuttling his kids to multiple sports.
This article was originally published in OpenRoad Driver Magazine.