Johannesburg – With last week’s 49 cents per litre petrol and 33c diesel price hikes, already-cash-strapped consumers will have to make the most of every tank of fuel more than ever before.

Smart driving could significantly improve your fuel economy, and poorly maintained vehicles and bad driving habits are the main culprits when it comes to high fuel consumption, says Graham Graggs, spokesperson for Budget Insurance.

“If you want to save, and keep your vehicle running for longer, investing in good maintenance and changing your driving habits to economy mode are essential.”

Budget Insurance provides the following tips for better fuel economy:

Maintenance

Make sure that your vehicle is serviced regularly. Things like worn spark plugs, sticky brakes, low coolant levels, dirty oil, and dirty fuel- and air filters all add up to engine inefficiency, which leads to increased fuel consumption.

Wheel alignment

Check your vehicle’s wheel alignment. Bad alignment causes more friction, which takes more power to overcome and results in higher fuel consumption.

Tyre pressure

Check for under inflated tyres, as these, too, increase resistance.

Reducing drag

Close the vehicle’s windows when driving, as open windows cause drag. You can also reduce drag by removing roof racks and other accessories when they aren’t in use.

Cutting weight

Reduce the vehicle’s weight by removing unnecessary items from it and, if you mostly do urban driving, consider driving with only half a tank of fuel.

Gradual acceleration

Don’t “floor it”. Rather accelerate gradually. Don’t speed.

Maintain momentum

Avoid stop-starting. Maintain momentum as far as possible by looking and planning ahead, flowing with traffic and timing your approaches to hills, traffic lights and crossings better.

Optimal gearing

Drive at the lowest speed in the highest gear that the road and traffic conditions allow, without labouring the engine.

Avoid the aircon

Use the air conditioning only when necessary.

Better planning

Plan your trips more carefully and do several tasks on one round trip, as opposed to many shorter ones. This not only limits mileage and the amount of time it takes to get your chores done, but also keeps your car’s engine running at optimal temperature.

Traffic avoidance

Wait out the traffic. If traffic is heavily congested, spend a bit more time at the office to tick more items off your to do list, or stop at a spot where you can have coffee or a bite to eat. Battling through traffic not only increases fuel consumption, but also wear and tear on your car’s transmission and brakes.

Be in the know

Keep your finger on the pulse by reading or listening to up to date traffic reports and monitoring your GPS for faster routes.

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