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Fuel Economy on Long Journeys

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 26 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Fuel Economy On Long Journeys

Many people choose driving holidays, not only to get to see some of the country they’re in, but also because it can often be cheaper to take your own car than going with organised tours. With rising fuel costs in most countries, it is starting to be more expensive to tour by car than it ever was, but there are ways to try and combat this – if only a little. Learning how to maximise your fuel economy on long journeys will help your budget and give you peace of mind that you’re not simply burning up fuel with no purpose.

Car Maintenance and Fuel Economy

Keeping your car well maintained is one of the best ways of ensuring that you will maximise your fuel economy on a long journey. It helps your car operate more efficiently and checking a few essential parts before you leave on a trip can make a huge difference. If your car hasn’t had its fuel filter, spark plugs or air filter cleaned and checked recently, you should consider getting these cleaned out before you go. Replacing these can actually increase your overall mileage by around 10 percent.

If you’re able to replace an oxygen sensor, you could find that you’re increasing your fuel efficiency by around 40 percent – a huge increase. Using the manufacturer recommended oil and fuel will also keep your car running at its best and most efficient so check your handbook and always try and stick to the very minimum recommended grade oil and fuel.

  • Check your handbook for minimum recommended fuel and oil
  • Get a dealer to check your spark plugs, air filter and fuel filter

Ensuring that your car tyres are also in top condition and are inflated to the correct level can make an immense difference on your fuel levels. If your tyres are under-inflated, you’ll find that you need more fuel and will be stopping more frequently to fill up. If your tyres are always at the correct level, you can improve your fuel economy by around 3.3 percent. You can find out the correct tyre pressure for your car in the owners manual and you can check these at most service stations. Always check your tyre pressure when the tyres are cold however as if they’re warm you’ll obtain a false reading.

Cut Down on Your Load

If you’re travelling abroad, it’s likely that you’ve packed the car so tightly there’s barely room to breathe in it. If this is the case, rethink what you consider to be essential items. Heavier vehicles use up more fuel so if you’re carrying passengers as well as plenty of luggage you’ll find that you have to refuel more often. Having an extra 100 pounds in your car can affect your fuel economy by as much as two percent, so only fill it if completely necessary.

Long Distance Driving and Air Con

Many people are under the impression that using the air con in your car increases the fuel consumption. This is actually true, but it’s dependent on the situation. If you’re in the city driving short distances and with plenty of stopping, it’s more fuel efficient to roll down your windows. You won’t be going fast enough for the drag to have an adverse effect on your fuel consumption, but this changes if you’re driving long distances and on motorways or highways. In these circumstances, it’s actually more economic to put on your air conditioner if you need it as having your windows open will increase the drag on your car and mean you need more fuel to get it moving.

The Truth About Cruise Control

Many people who have new cars have the luxury of cruise control in their vehicle and will use it at every opportunity. The trick with cruise control when it comes to increasing fuel efficiency and being economic is that you should use it only on long stretches of flat road. For long journeys cruise control is ideal as it improves your mileage by helping you to maintain a constant speed. If you’re on roads that are mountainous or hilly, using your cruise control will actually increase your fuel consumption as the car will speed up to meet the set speed. This is why driving in a higher gear can often be better for fuel consumption – great on long journeys, not so great on short trips.

Essential Tips for Fuel Economy on Long Journeys

  • Don’t overload your vehicle
  • Check your tyres
  • Replace essential items such as air and fuel filter
  • Use your air con only when needed and only on long stretches of road
  • Cruise control should only be used on long flat roads
  • Drive in the highest gear possible
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