Cape Town - I think we have all fallen for the trick once or twice: The petrol price drops a few cents, and we all rejoice. Those tingly feelings of a few extra cents in your pocket are short lived though because, yes, you know it, a few weeks later the price per liter increases once again to a level higher than what it was before the decrease we were barely done enjoying.
Yes we can go on and on lamenting the price of fuel but this will not magically fill up your tank. Ultimately, fuel is a necessary part of our daily lives.
1. It affects everyone!
You may be grinning and saying to yourself, 'Well I don't need to worry I don't even own a car." Well I hate to burst your bubble but....POP! Even if you do not own a vehicle the cost of fuel in this modern world of ours affects almost everything in our daily lives. From the public transport you use, to the food you eat, and everything in between.
We have become so dependent on it it’s scary to think where we would be without the stuff. I do not mean to alarm anyone, but have you heard about the 'oil crisis'? Better get those bicycles out just in case. Maybe get one of those new age electric or hybrid cars. Fossil fuel supplies are in trouble people... just saying.
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But I digress. So after we cry in the corner with the dirty laundry about the cost of fuel we have to eventually get up, wipe our tears and do something about it. No, I don't mean protest and riot. That never gets anyone anywhere. I am talking about taking steps to ensure we use less fuel by any means necessary. We may not be able to control the price of fuel, but we can at least have some control over how much of it we use.
With a current price of R12.78 / liter here are a few tips which may assist you in using less fuel, and keep those extra few rands in your wallet.
No not the stuff in your computer but similar. Nowadays there are automobile tuners out there who are able to plug a magic box into your car and fiddle with the way you car controls emissions. This works well especially on older cars. They newer models do a pretty good job of controlling it with stock software. In a nutshell, they make the car run leaner so that it uses less fuel.
Remember there is always a balance that needs to be maintained and running to lean will result in a loss of power. Good tuners will advise you accordingly. Where the tuner is unable to modify the stock software they could install an aftermarket management system which theoretically should pay for itself over the course of several months. Just make sure you check with your insurance and maintenance plans before changing software parameters since this could void your warranty especially on newer cars.
3. Lift Clubs
This one is pretty self explanatory. I know it's not always possible especially when you have a job that requires you to be mobile. If, however, you have find yourself sitting in peak hour traffic en route to work just to park your car in an overpriced parking garage in the CBD and then going home in traffic thicker than your grandmas vegetable soup, then a lift club is a really good option.
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You will save on fuel, parking fees and wear and tear on your vehicle. Let’s not forget your contribution to a cleaner environment. Just make sure you wear deodorant when travelling with others and abide by the obligatory shotgun passenger and backseat driver rules.
4. Rush hour traffic
Talking about rush hour traffic... AVOID IT! If you are able to leave earlier so that you have an open piece of highway all the way to your destination, then I urge you to do it. During rush hour your vehicle uses more fuel that it does at any other time. The constant idling and stop start traffic play havoc with your vehicle's fuel consumption - not to mention your stress levels. Road rage is real, people. Don’t be a victim.
5. Smooth driving
Changing your driving style can have a profound effect on your vehicle's fuel cinsumption. A car uses more fuel under heavy acceleration than it would if one keeps the revs relatively low and pulls off decently. Constant 'spirited pull-aways and stand on the throttle' braking does not do your fuel consumption any favors, or your car for that matter. Try to practice driving more smoothly. Obeying the speed limit does wonders with saving fuel, puts less pressure on your car and it's a lot safer. Did I mention it saves fuel?
6. General vehicle maintenance
Making sure that your vehicle is regularly serviced has many positive factors. For years the main reason behind servicing a vehicle was to ensure that it was in good working condition and that it would not die on you when you least expected it. Like when you wife goes into labor or when your in-laws are popping in for a surprise visit and you need to make a quick get-away. Nowadays people are doing regular services because they understand that as a car gets older the less economical it gets. By servicing regularly you are able to prolong the amount of years your vehicle remains fuel efficient.
7. Tyre pressures
It's amazing how sometimes the smallest things really do make a big difference. Here we have air. It's free - at least for now - and it will save you an insane amount of money when you put it in your tyres. Let me drop some science on you for a second. When your tyres are deflated, even slightly, this causes more resistance on the road.
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More resistance while the car is driving means the engine has to work harder to make the car move forward. The harder the engine works, the more fuel it uses. Make sense? Take that, Science Guy! The beauty is you don't even have to do it yourself. The helpful attendant at the filling station will do it for you if you ask. Heck, most of the time they offer the service. Just remember to tip.
8. Cruise control
I have cruise control in our fuel-guzzling 7-seater soccer mom van. I do everything in my power to try and save as much fuel as I am able with this thing. One thing I have noticed, especially with highway driving and long trips, is that the cruise control does a pretty good job at accelerating and decelerating smoothly. We spoke about this a bit earlier, remember? Over the years I have tested this theory and can safely say that when using the cruise control I get more kilometers per liter than if I had been controlling the accelerator and brake pedal myself.
9. Shop around
Did you know that fuel prices vary slightly from one service station to another. This is especially true when purchasing diesel. Do yourself a favor and look at the prices you pay per liter. In the long run those cents do add up.
10. Fuel discounts
Most of the banks nowadays, and some medical aids schemes, offer some or other form of fuel discounts if you bank with them and utilise their services. Sometimes it's as simple as swiping your debit or petrol card when buying fuel. At the end of the month you get a certain amount back on your fuel spend. The ins and outs are too comprehensive to detail for this article, but do yourself a favor and get hold of your bank to see if they offer these forms of rewards. It may very well save you some cash.
11. Shed excess weight
Rip out the carpets. Back seats are a luxury. Are those side view mirrors really necessary? I jest. But on a more serious note, excess weight in a car really kills your fuel economy.
Now I am not saying that you cannot stick your mates in the back seat when you head off to the golf course. What I am saying is that when you are done playing golf, take the clubs out of the boot when you get home. It's no use leaving them in there, weighing down your car and making it guzzle more fuel. This goes for anything with a decent weight that does not need to be in your car. Lightening the load in your car will ensure you wallet is a bit heavier with cash money in the long run.
READ: Vehicle maintenance in SA - 7 essential checks
Out of all of these the one thing that will make the biggest difference to your fuel consumption is your driving style. Fuel prices will continue to increase. Aftermarket modifications cost money. Driving sensibly is free and with a little practice and patience will save you fuel, money and lessen your carbon footprint. And isn't that a good thing?