Wednesday, September 3, 2008

How to get more KMs out of your car (Pt 1)

Crude prices have fallen to USD 106 (from US 147 a few months ago), after hurricane Gustav blew over with minimal havoc. While this is a much welcomed reprieve, people around the world are still nervous that the slightest crisis or weather even around the corner will trigger another sharp increase in oil prices.

Fuel economy - its still very much the in-word today. Everybody's talking about how to get their cars to run longer with every small fortune we spend on filling up our tank.

Peddlers touting all manner of fuel saving devices and additives have ramped their sales campaigns and are making a killing. In my previous post on this subject, I'd shown you studies that show that none of these products work anywhere near as claimed. In short, they're all a bunch of crap.

There are, however, real and proven ways you can increase your car's fuel efficiency. Its got to do with the way you drive and the way you maintain your car. The buzzword is hypermiling. The best thing about hypermiling is that, most of the time, practising it does does not require you spending a single cent -- yep, its practically free fuel!

You can use hypermiling techniques on all kinds of vehicles and still see positive results.

Here are some simple tips that anybody can start... all it takes is some practice and a lot of discipline.

These tips below can be practiced quite safely as it does not require any fancy (read: dangerous) jiggling or tampering with the car. However it always pays to be careful when doing anything new. Considering this involves cars, highways and relatively high speeds, please be careful, read and understand, then experiment!

  • Tip # 1 - Prep your car -- There are 2 very easy things you can do which are FREE, and another one which is relatively cheap to do.
  1. Inflate your tire to slightly (10%) above spec. This helps lower rolling resistance and improves fuel economy. Do NOT over inflate as that causes you to lose road grip, and, hard tires can spoil your suspension.

  2. Clear your car off junk. Check your boot... how many things you have in it do you really need? The more non-essential things you get your car to carry, the more fuel it burns. Other things to look out for... that Thule box on top of your MPV; the bicycle rack on top or behind your car; your kangaroo bar; half-used bottles of engine oil; the 'still ok' wipers you refuse to throw away... and the list goes on... you'll be surprised what has accumulated at the back over the years.

  3. Service your car to specs. A poorly maintained engine (engine oil, fuel and air filter, spark plugs, ignition and timing, air-conditioner) can easily cause you an extra 10% to 20% in fuel to run. Changing to a lower viscosity engine oil (e.g. SAE 5 or 10 - 40) helps too.

  • Tip #2 - Find your car's fuel-economic 'sweetspot' What is the most efficient cruising speed of your car? Consult your car manual (it is typically around 75-95km/h). Drive at that speed as much as practical. When climbing hills, its usually a good idea to ease off the pedal, aim for the RPM 'sweetspot' instead (that's when the engine turns more easily) as this is more efficient going uphill. Once you're up the hill, lift off the pedal and coast down to recover the 'lost' fuel spent in climbing up.

  • Tip #3 - Drive 'gently'; anticipate and respond -- accelerate slowly to your target speed. Hard accelleration only burns up fuel unnecessarily. Hard braking then eliminates all that momentum you burnt so much fuel to get. Look ahead and start easing off the pedal once you know you have to slow down or eventually stop. If your car has a fuel consumption meter (shows km/l consumption), make full use of it. You'll find yourself rewarded with higher fuel economy figures as you start paying attention to this meter and drive less aggressively.
There's this guy who says he is 'as one' with his car... he drives with his bare right foot so he can feel every slightest presser on the pedal. He also 'knows' from the engine sound and vibration when the engine is running optimally or is under too much exertion (i.e. not running efficiently). As a result, he is actually able to beat the fuel consumption figures published in his car manual! And he is not alone...

  • Tip #3 - 'Upgrade' your care wisely - Some folks love spending money on their cars. There are those who spend on performance, and others who spend on 'looking like there is performance'. Forget all those performance enhancements if you are looking for fuel economy.
  1. If you want more power (think: re-chipping, turbo, spark plugs, manifolds and extractors etc), you will get it, but by burning a lot more fuel.

  2. If you want better tire grip, you get it by having expensive softer and wider tires which again burn more fuel, and wear out faster. Having harder suspension and better brakes don't burn more fuel by themselves ... but they do encourage you to drive a lot more aggressively.... which then burns more fuel

  3. If you want more down-force, the well-tuned fairings, side skirts all help at that...and again you burn more fuel.

  4. The fake performance parts are even worse... they cost you money, do nothing for performance and *still* causes you to burn more fuel... go figure!

If you must spend on your car, consider putting on a good tinting film. Choosing the right film is good investment as it has a 3-fold effect:

(a) Rejects heat and helps lower your cooling cost (save fuel)

(b) blocks out UV rays to slow down the fading and damage to your dashboard and everything else in the car (increase 2nd hand care value)

(c) gives some level of safety and security -- the lamination prevents shattered glass from flying all over; and protects you to a degree if there is impact.

Continued tomorrow - another 4 fuel saving tips in Pt 2

4 commented:

Anonymous said...

I travel to and from work, covering approx 12km each way, and my full tank on my wira last me 2 weeks, using ALL those tips you've mentioned, plus a few of my own.

1. I switch to free gear whenever I can, like down hill / slope.

2. Off aircon (especially I leave home early and when the sun is down when I leave office)

It works!

CheeWee said...

malaysians love to park right at the doorstep. If no spot is available, many are willing to wait and left the car engine running! C'mon guys, in addition to fuel saving, it's good for yr health if u park a block or two away!

Then there are also many who will drive to the next street neighbourhood shop to ta pau etc! No wonder we are getting fat and attract diseases!

Center Parted said...

WLE, thanks for validating these tips. I used to get 280k of town driving on a full tank from my MPV.

I'd get 380k from highway / outstation trips.

Practicing these and those in part 2, I managed to get 330km and 450km respectively.

Savings, just like that!!

Center Parted said...

CW, you've actually gone ahead and covered my next set of tips, under driving habits. :)

Yes, we have this tendency of going around or hanging about in our cars to get that 'perfect' parking spot.

That's the worse as you go at crawl speeds and burn up a lot of fuel getting to where you already are!