Beat the fuel price hike

The ever-increasing fuel price as a result of skyrocketing oil prices means that motorists will have to tighten their belts even further. As always, a petrol price hike will hit the lower-income earners hardest because they spend greater proportions of their incomes on transport.

A petrol price hike will also have direct impact on food costs as manufacturers and transport companies pass the increases on to the consumer. It is impossible to insulate one's finances against higher fuel costs and the effects of inflation. Forward planning, however, can help create efficiencies especially when it comes to running your car.

We give little thought to getting behind the wheel to grab an ice cream at the café, or making a trip to see a friend’s new outfit. Each time we get into our car it costs us money. The increase in fuel is actually quite insignificant if you compare it to the extra costs we impose on ourselves from bad planning, maintenance and driving habits. Not only will good driving practices save you money but it is good for the environment too. Here is how to turn your vehicle into a lean, mean cost- effective machine.

Engine warm-up
In the old days you were told to let your car warm up, especially on cold days. This is no longer necessary. Do not warm up the engine by letting the car idle. Drive off immediately after starting, but at a low speed. This way, the engine will warm up faster and lubricate better.

Pulling off
Putting your foot to the floorboard in an attempt to beat the roadster next to you is an expensive indulgence; this habit gulps your petrol. Also avoid sudden stops by anticipating the traffic ahead. It takes 20 percent less fuel to accelerate to cruising speed from 10km/h than from a complete stop.

Drive at the speed limit or less
Always keep a manual transmission in the highest gear possible without straining the engine. Travelling at 80km/h in fifth gear (2500rpm) uses less petrol than travelling at 50km/h in third (also 2500rpm) because the engine turns fewer revolutions per kilometre.

Don't ride the brake or clutch pedal
Many people ride the clutch of their cars, especially when they are at the top of a hill. This increases fuel consumption and causes needless wear on the brakes and clutch. It’s also dangerous; you could stall the car and roll down into someone behind you.

Walk short distances
Avoid driving if your destination is within walking distance. Not only do you save on fuel, it's good exercise too.

Get rid of extra baggage
Do not carry unnecessary weight in your car — the heavier the load, the more petrol is used. Avoid packing items on top of the car. A loaded roof rack or carrier creates wind resistance and can decrease fuel economy by five percent. It's better to place items inside the car or in the boot. However, even weight in the trunk increases consumption; 45 extra kilos reduces a typical car's fuel economy by one to two percent. Another thing to consider is to leave the kids at home when possible; their joy rides don’t come free.

Keep tyres properly inflated
Properly inflated tires provide less road-resistance and can improve fuel efficiency. Check your owner's manual for appropriate inflation levels. This information is usually available on the jamb of the driver's-side door or on the inside of the petrol flap.

Maintain your vehicle
Keep up with engine maintenance. Make sure that you change the spark plugs and filters according to the manufacturer's recommendations. A well maintained car will reduce fuel costs and will also prevent costly repairs down the road. Ensure that the car is serviced regularly in accordance with the service programme. This can be costly so make sure you make provision for this in your monthly budget.

Air conditioner
Switch on the air conditioner only when necessary. Air conditioners reduce mileage by about five to 10 percent. Park the car in the shade and leave the windows open slightly to keep the car cooler.

Driving with the windows open is also a fuel-guzzler, and can increase fuel consumption by up to 20 percent!

Proper wheel alignment
It takes power to overcome improper alignment, which in turn wastes fuel.

Plan your route
Before you embark on your journey, plan your route to avoid needless travelling. Make sure you know how to get to your destination. I shudder to think how much petrol and time I have wasted taking the "scenic route" to places. Get a good map book, or if you are still in doubt, call someone to give you directions. Plan shopping trips too, don’t run back and forth to the convenience store. This not only takes extra petrol but you can pay up to 30 percent more for groceries at the corner café.

Article by: Iona Minton -