Fuel economy tips that could save you a full tank | Driving

Gather round for a math lesson, folks. Don’t worry, I’ve already crunched the numbers for you. Below, I’ll show you how a few fuel-saving tips and habits could easily earn the average family a free tank of fuel during the upcoming summer travel season.

Use your Cruise Control

Cruise control is a powerful fuel-saving tool, since cars are most fuel efficient when travelling at a constant speed. Using your cruise control also helps other drivers drive more efficiently, since it’s easier for them to hold a constant speed while you’re doing the same.

According to data from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), drivers manually targeting an 80 km/h cruising speed will tend to fluctuate from that speed by as much as 10 km/h, a few times a minute. This uses 20 per cent more fuel than setting the cruise to 80 instead.

A bad driver might make similar fluctuations every 12 seconds. NRCan says in that case, you could be using nearly 50 per cent more fuel than you need to. The figures increase dramatically when your targeted cruising speed is higher.

So, if you almost never use your cruise control, consider starting — you could instantly cut your fuel use by 25 per cent or more every time you’re able to use it.

Cruising speed

Driving faster uses more gas, and few drivers seem to mind. But with NRCan reporting a 1 per cent increase in fuel consumption for every 1 km/h faster than 100 km/h you drive, the costs start to add up.

For instance, driving 112 km/h uses 12 per cent more fuel than driving 100 km/h. If you do a lot of highway driving, or cruise at even higher speeds, slowing down could save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Vehicle service maintenance

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Maintenance is key

Maintaining your vehicle properly is a great way to ensure that it delivers the fuel economy it was intended to. Combined with fuel-efficient driving practices, a properly-maintained car has the easiest time of delivering maximum fuel efficiency.

A clogged or dirty engine air filter can increase your fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent, with improperly inflated tires increasing consumption by another 3 per cent. If your car needs an alignment, that’s an additional 10 per cent increase in fuel used.

Hopefully you’re not driving a vehicle in that sort of condition, but if you are, addressing these issues can reduce fuel consumption by nearly 25 per cent.

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Idling and roof racks

Use of a bike rack or roof rack can increase fuel consumption by 20 per cent, and an average remote start user with a four-cylinder car will burn an additional $100 to $120 worth of fuel. 

Translation? Many drivers have many opportunities to cut their fuel bill with relatively little effort.

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Crunching the numbers

Let’s take a theoretical family car with a 60 litre fuel tank and average fuel consumption rating of 10L / 100km combined. That’s a fancy way of saying that, on average, this car needs to burn 10 litres of gas for every 100 kilometres it drives.

Now, let’s say that vehicle’s tires are under-inflated. This increases fuel use by 3 per cent, at all times while you’re driving.

If this driver doesn’t use the cruise control, their fuel usage may be 20 per cent higher in many driving conditions. Let’s say those conditions represent 60 per cent of the driving this vehicle does.

That’s a 20 per cent increase in fuel consumption, 60 per cent of the time, which adds 12 per cent to the average fuel consumption overall. 

Maybe this driver also cruises at high speed, perhaps 115 km/h, during about half of their daily commute and family road trips, for a further 5 per cent increase to their average fuel consumption. 

In this example, we start with a car designed to achieve 10L / 100km, but thanks to under-inflated tires, lack of cruise control use, and speeding, consumption increases by 3, 12, and 5 per cent, respectively.

That’s 20 per cent more fuel consumed — making it 12L / 100km, instead of just 10.

On average then, for every 100 kilometres driven, this vehicle wastes 2 litres of gas. For every 1,000 kilometres driven, it wastes 20 litres of gas. For every 3,000 kilometres driven, it wastes about 60 litres of gas — which is a fairly average fuel tank size, by the way.

So, in this particular example, you can see how a few changes to driving habits and a little maintenance can save the average family an entire tank of fuel over the course of a summer travel season.