File picture: Neil Baynes/Independent Media

THE impact of the weak rand has resulted in motorists having to dig deeper into their pockets over the past two months to fill their tanks, but, by driving smarter, you can make your fuel go further, says Graham Craggs, a spokesman for Budget Insurance.

This month, the petrol price increased by between 25 cents and 29c a litre, and the price of diesel rose by 42c. Last month, motorists had to fork out about 67c a litre for petrol and 44c a litre for diesel.

Craggs says that, according to the United States Department of Energy, smart driving can increase fuel economy by as much as 40%. 

This means that a tank that normally takes you 650km could enable you to travel more than 900km, which translates to almost a tankful of savings for every two tanks filled.

“Poorly maintained vehicles and bad driving habits are the main culprits when it comes to high fuel consumption. 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.”

He says motorist should do the following tips to enhance their fuel economy:

• Have your vehicle serviced regularly. Faults such as worn spark plugs, sticky brakes, low coolant levels, and dirty oil, fuel and air filters retard the efficiency of your engine, which leads to increased fuel consumption.

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

• Make sure your tyres are not under-inflated tyres, because this increases resistance.

• Close your vehicle’s windows when driving, because open windows cause drag.

• Reduce the vehicle’s weight by removing items that you aren’t using, such as roof racks. If you drive mostly in urban areas, consider driving with only half-a-tank of fuel.

• Don’t “floor” the accelerator, but accelerate gradually.

• Don’t speed.

• Avoid stop-start driving. Maintain momentum as far as possible by looking and planning ahead, going with the traffic flow, and timing your approaches to hills, traffic lights and intersections better.

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

• Use the air-conditioning only when necessary.

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

• Wait out the traffic. Instead of driving at peak times, spend a bit more time at the office to tick more items off your to do list, or stop where you can have a coffee or a bite to eat. Battling through traffic increases fuel consumption and the wear and tear on your car’s transmission and brakes.

• Read or listen to traffic reports and monitor your GPS to find faster routes.

“Saving on fuel by keeping your car in tip-top shape and changing the way you drive may seem like a bit of a hassle, but if you fill up 48 times a year at R700 per tank, a 40% reduction in fuel consumption could save you more than R13 000 a year,” says Craggs.

[email protected]