How can I save fuel when driving?

Darren Cassey, PA Motoring Reporter

Keeping fuel usage low has two big benefits – the first is that it’s good for the environment, but in the more immediate future, it will save you money at the pumps.

And that latter point is a prominent one this week, because the RAC has warned drivers to brace themselves for increased fuel prices, as the price of a barrel of oil is set to shoot up.

With this in mind, here are five top tips to keep your fuel usage low so you’re not hit by hefty bills in the coming weeks.

Don’t drive at all

This might be an obvious one, but before taking a trip, you should consider whether you need to go out at all. The best way to save fuel – and the environment – is to walk or cycle if your journey is a short one.

Ditch unnecessary items

Drag can have a big impact on fuel usage, so make sure you remove any roof racks or boxes when you don’t need to carry anything – it can make a surprising difference to consumption.

The same can be said about unnecessary weight. So if you always carry lots of stuff in the boot of your car, it’s extra weight that’s detrimental to fuel consumption. So clean your car out and make sure you only carry what you need.

Keep on top of maintenance

Again, this can seem like a minor thing, but all of the parts in your car can slowly wear out, and as they do they work less efficiently, increasing fuel consumption. Regular services and fluid checks make sure everything is working as it should.

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Tyre pressures are also key, because under-inflated tyres require more engine effort to move. Keep them pumped up to the manufacturer-recommended pressures to keep rolling resistance low.

Watch your speed

Generally speaking, the faster you go, the more fuel you use, so keep within the speed limit. Some who take fuel economy runs really seriously will travel at the same speed as lorries on the motorway to keep fuel costs low without being a slow-moving hazard to others.

Acceleration is the real economy killer, though. So try to accelerate smoothly and maintain a constant speed once you’re up to speed. It pays to look far ahead while driving, too, so you can avoid having to hit the brakes hard, resulting in the need to accelerate again.

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Think about air conditioning

Most ancillary features of your car will take some load from the engine to run, increasing fuel consumption. For most, the difference is so tiny it’s not worth worrying about, but air conditioning can be quite a drain on the engine.

So if the weather is fairly mild, consider switching it off. And if it’s warm outside, try dropping the windows when travelling around town. At higher speeds, the extra drag created by open windows is even worse for your economy, so stick to air con in that case.

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