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Manage your fuel: A healthy car is not a fuel guzzler

Ten tips for better fuel economy from TEPA, SAPRA and RMI.

With South Africans reeling from the fourth consecutive month with an increase in the petrol price, keeping your car in tip-top condition, managing the number and length of trips, and the speed at one travels, has never been more critical.

Vishal Premlall, national director of the Tyre, Equipment, Parts Association (TEPA), and the South African Petroleum Retailers Association (SAPRA), proud associations of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), says with the fuel price continuing to spike it is more important than ever to make sure your car’s health is not adversely affecting its fuel consumption.

One way of doing this is to keep your car and its tyres in optimum condition. Now is not the time to skimp on your car’s service or have niggling problems checked out.

Premlall explains many factors can influence fuel efficiency, like temperature, travelling environment and long trips. In addition to these, the internal workings of your vehicle can affect your fuel efficiency, as can your driving habits.

“Poor maintenance causes a car to consume more fuel. If you ignore your car’s service intervals, you will burn more fuel because your engine won’t run smoothly. The air elements will be clogged and, therefore, more fuel will be required by the car to run for the same distance.

“Also, if you take your car out on short trips often, you will notice higher fuel consumption. This is because all vehicles are least efficient and most polluting at the start of a journey and during short trips. Trips of less than five kilometres don’t allow the engine to reach its optimum operating temperature, so the engine uses more fuel,” he says.

“Fuel-saving tips are nothing new, but motorists are quick to forget. Unfortunately too, in our current economy, our car sometimes has to take a backseat to other expenses, so critical maintenance doesn’t get done when it should,” said Premlall.

Les Richardson, TEPA vice chairperson, offers 10 tips as a reminder of how easy it is to ensure you are getting the best mileage out of your tank:

1. Keep your tyres at the recommended pressure. Not only does this extend tyre life, but keeps you and your loved ones safer on the road. Under-inflated tyres cost you petrol consumption.

2. Have your wheel alignment checked every 8 000km to 10 000km. Proper alignment extends your tyre life, contributes to safer handling in an emergency and is better for fuel economy.

3. Remove items that don’t need to be in the car. Keep your car clean and light. Every additional kilogram of unnecessary weight costs you fuel whenever you accelerate.

4. Service your vehicle at the required intervals. An optimally running engine is more fuel efficient and knowing that your brakes and other consumable parts are working correctly will give you peace of mind. Remember, your TEPA parts outlet will recommend the right part for your car.

5. Check your tyres. Do you have the right tyres on your car? Wider tyres may look good, but sometimes they are noisier and the increased rolling resistance increases fuel consumption.

6. Check the mileage. If your car has more than 100 000km on the odometer, consider having your catalytic converter checked as a clogged exhaust limits the free flow of gasses and affects performance and fuel economy.

7. If your vehicle has cruise control, consider using it more often, as a consistent speed could save you fuel (and speeding fines).

8. Don’t think you use less fuel if you drive with your windows open and turn off the aircon. The reverse is true. It creates an additional drag, which affects your fuel economy. It is wiser to drive with the windows closed. There are other benefits like it is less noisy and makes you less of a target for opportunistic criminals.

9. Coasting with your car in neutral is more dangerous than keeping your car in control and gear. Modern cars shut the fuel delivery system down or reduce the fuel when the engine is not under load.

10. The best fuel-saving tip is to share a trip. Rather, drive together to get to the same destination than driving separately. Plus it has the bonus of making the trip more fun and interactive. Premlall concludes that planning your journey is also key to fuel economy.

“Use a GPS app to assist with this as these steer you away from traffic congestion and plot the shortest route for you. Avoiding traffic to take a route with better flow is better for fuel economy,” he says.

“Apart from a good fuel economy, there are many other benefits to making sure your car is in good health and optimal working order. It will serve you better for longer and be less likely to break down. Also, regular maintenance will promote your car’s value, making it easier to sell if you decide to do so.”

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