Johannesburg - Coming on top of June’s massive fuel price hike, this morning’s further increase of 26 cents a litre is going to hurt, no matter what you drive.

But according to the US Department of Energy, driving smart - consistently, all the time -  can reduce your car’s fuel consumption by as much as 40 percent. For the average commuter, that means filling up three times a month instead of four, and that’s serious money at today’s fuel prices!

“People often underestimate the impact that their driving habits have on fuel consumption,” said Budget Insurance marketing manager Susan Steward, “but minor tweaks can help protect your pocket at the pump.”

There’s a lot of hype around smart driving, and some of things the so-called ‘experts’ advocate are either impractical or enormously frustrating - but here are Steward’s 10 most practical real-world fuel saving hacks:

1 Align and inflate - Incorrect wheel alignment and under-inflated tyres cause increased resistance between the tyres and the road, leading to higher fuel consumption and increased tyre wear. Check your tyre pressures at least once a month, and wheel alignment at least once a year - every six months is better, or after hitting something solid like a pothole or a kerb.

2 Smooth and steady - Every time you accelerate hard you turn lots of fuel into momentum, and every time you brake hard you waste that momentum as heat from your car’s brakes. Avoid ‘Stoplight Grand Prix’ starts and keep a safe following distance so you don’t have to brake harshly when the car ahead of you does.

3 Squash the need for speed - High speed means high fuel consumption - it’s as simple as that. Your car uses as much as 25 percent more fuel at 110km/h than cruising at a more relaxed 90km/h. And it’s even worse for motorcycles - a Harley-Davidson on a 2700km test ride by IOL Motoring in 2015 used twice as much petrol at 140km/h as it did at 70km/h - that’s literally double the cost for double the speed!

4 Hook it up a gear – Generally, the higher the gear, the lower the fuel consumption, so always drive in the highest gear possible without straining the engine by letting the revs drop too low.

5 Don’t be a drag – There are many things that cause or increase drag, including: driving with the windows open and attaching carriers or bicycles to the roof. Keep the windows closed, especially at high speeds, and tow a trailer rather than piling the extra stuff on the roof.

6 Control the climate - Your car’s air-con compressor is more of a drag on the engine when the car is running slowly and actually causes the engine to use extra fuel at low revs, which is where you’re trying to drive to save fuel! If you’re driving at less than 80km/h, compressor drag is worse than air-resistance, so switch off the canned air and open a window!

7 Give you car a health check - Modern engines are astonishingly efficient, but to stay that way everything needs to run clean and smooth. Dirty oil and air filters, dirty fuel-injectors and catalysers, and worn spark plugs will all cause your car to slurp more fuel in order to provide a given output.

8 Keep your cool -  Low coolant levels will make your car run rich to protect the moving parts from excess heat - a very expensive answer to a question that shouldn’t need to be asked.

9 Be patient and work smart - Rather than burn fuel standing still in stop-go traffic, use navigation apps such as Waze to find a smooth-flowing route to work, with as few stops and starts as possible, even if the overall distance is slightly further.

10 Hit the button and go - Low-viscosity oils and precise fuel-injection allow today’s cars to be driven (gently) within a few seconds after the oil warning light goes out; there’s no need to let the car sit idling in driveway to ‘warm up’ - it’s a real waste of fuel.

IOL Motoring