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Don’t be gaslit by these fuel myths

For a start, driving a car with the clutch depressed or in neutral does not save you any fuel, because the engine is still idling.

If you think the price of fuel cannot go any higher, do I have news for you?

With the cost of petrol rising to R21 a litre from March, and the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the situation’s unlikely to get better anytime soon.

But there is one thing more painful than filling up your tank right now, and that is listening to some of the fuel-saving advice being dished out by so-called experts on social media. In fact, the crazier the tip, the more people seem to like it.

So, for the sake of my own sanity and your fuel bills, let us debunk some of these old myths for once and for all, and give you some fuel-saving advice that really works.

Kriben Reddy, vice president of auto information solutions at TransUnion Africa.Myth #1: Turn off the air-con

Okay. What is the first thing you are going to do if you turn off the aircon? Yes, you are going to open the windows. Which means a few things. In the city, you are going to be breathing smog, and potentially become a prime target for smash-and-grabbers. On the highway, the drag caused by your open windows will cost you more fuel than the air con. Verdict: Modern aircons have a minimal impact on your fuel consumption. Rather be safe and comfortable.

Myth #2: Buy fuel early in the day

The theory is that liquids are denser at lower temperatures, so at cooler morning temperatures, you will get more fuel for your rand. This is all very interesting, but we are forgetting one fundamental fact here: fuel is stored in underground tanks, so it barely changes in temperature at all. The only benefit of filling up early in the morning is that you will miss the queues. Verdict: Put your fuel in when you need it.

Myth #3: Put your car in neutral and coast

Let me be blunt. This is horrible advice. For a start, driving a car with the clutch depressed or in neutral does not save you any fuel, because the engine is still idling. But the bigger problem is that it is dangerous because you pick up speed quicker and have less control. Because your wheels are not powered, your ability to take a safe line around corners is compromised, and in an emergency, you will have to rely on your brakes alone to stop you. Verdict: Do not do this. Ever.

Myth #4: Use XYZ additive or fuel-saving gadget

The more fuel prices go through the roof, the more we are bombarded with ads that claim incredible fuel savings from a little bottle of secret goop, or a little device that you attach to your car. As a petrolhead of many years, I can sum up these additives and gizmos in one sentence: they do not work. And on the off chance that they do, they cost more than the fuel you would have saved. Go figure. Verdict: Avoid.

Here are three fuel-saving tips that actually do work:

Reality #1: Lose weight

Out of your car, I mean. Take off roof and bike racks when you are not using them. And leave the golf clubs at home. Every extra kilogram (and increased drag in the case of items on the exterior of the car like roof racks) adds to your consumption in the long run.

Reality #2: Maintain your vehicle

Getting your car serviced regularly and keeping your tyres properly inflated are easy maintenance tasks – and make a big difference to your fuel consumption.

Reality #3: Drive smoothly

This is the single, undisputed number-one way to save fuel. Better driving habits can literally save you thousands of rand a year in fuel costs. Here is my challenge to you: try driving as if you have a cup of coffee on your dashboard. That means no sudden acceleration or sharp braking, driving at steady speeds, and avoiding high speeds on the highway. And you will save on tyres and maintenance in the process. Your bank balance will thank you.

The bottom line? There is no magic trick to saving fuel. The best way to save at the pump is to apply common sense, and to drive in a relaxed and calm manner. Be safe out there.

And if you really need to trade in that gas-guzzler for a more economical model, make sure you start by checking your credit status with your annual free TransUnion Credit Report – the healthier your credit record, the better your chances of getting a lower interest rate on secured credit like vehicle loans.

Source: Nicola Honey – ByDesign South Africa

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