!! Beat the average !! Pointers for extracting the most out of each and every liter of fuel you put in your vehicle. With fuel prices rocketing and a respite nowhere in sight, I’m sure many would have noticed a jump in their monthly fuel bills. And the alternate would have been to drive lesser, or go out lesser. However fuel prices are still going to go up, no matter how much you restrict yourself, maybe till the point when you stop owning a vehicle altogether. Anyhow, these are some pointers that if kept in mind and followed, could help you eke out 10-20% more mileage from your current, existing vehicles. Yup you know the regular ones, tyre pressure, gear shift, speeding etc, But what I am trying to do here, is incorporate them, into some other ones that I feel are significant to essentially change the amount of fuel burnt in your vehicles, which is directly proportional to the money in your pocket. In no particular order, these are some of the tips and tricks that come to mind – 1. Keep it clean Baby, above and below the belt. A clean car does contribute to better mileage, not just to impress your women when you take them out in it. The lesser the amount of muck/mud/dirt sticking to the car, the less weight it has to carry. It may sound funny, but during rainy season this could be anything upto 7-12 kgs additional weight on the car, stuck to the underside of the vehicle, inside the engine bay, in the car! A clean engine bay, especially the front radiator/cooling grill area will ensure that the engine will run at its optimum temperature (not run too hot or too cold, since the radiator is choked and cannot cool efficiently). This will improve efficiency of the engine, and in return, burn lesser fuel. Moreover a clean cooling coil will ensure that the A/C of your vehicle will work at its most optimum level, reducing the load on the compressor, and in turn using lesser energy to cool. 2. Not just on the outside, but on the inside as well Yup, your car isn’t really fuel efficient if its gonna carry your Friday left overs, Saturday shopping and Sunday groceries as well. Its as efficient as the amount of load it has to bear every day. Some people go to the extent of removing the spare tyre even ( Having strong faith in the roads provided to them by the government, but sadly not the case in India ). However yes, An empty clean car will be anyday more fuel efficient than a car that has to lug around dead weight for no reason. So if you carry around a spare bag, stuff that you cant find space in your house, unnecessary items that your car could do without, you are technically in-efficient. Solution? Carry only what is needed, and ensure that your car does not have any dead weight to carry. It may seem small, but when it all adds up, it can nearly be the equivalent of carrying another person around. For all those familiar with 2 wheelers, remember what used to happen when that pillion would get on board with you?? Well it’s the same thing, though slightly minor in effect, but yes, effective yes. Another important thing for regular commuters. Its good to tank up your fuel tank, in case the government hikes prices, so you can gloat over the 15-20 odd rupees you saved by having fuel in your tank. However do u realize that that’s also dead weight that you are lugging around each day. If your commute is fixed, your distance is known, your route is decided, and you know that the country is not going to war with anyone suddenly, why always keep the needle at full? Its good to be safe and to always have surplus. But lugging that 20-30 kgs of fuel ( in bigger cars 40 + ) is also detrimental to fuel efficiency. Stick to the half tank policy. A half tank is as good as a full tank, if you aint the sudden trippers.. Who love to suddenly drive off into the horizon. Oh and by the way, the same is applicable to Installed equipment like sound system/subwoofer/boxes/amplifiers etc. Not asking you to chuck everything out, however it’s a matter of personal choice. To each his own. 3. Use the Thermostat dial on the A/C &Use the A/C more efficiently. A number of times I have seen people simply reducing the fan speed inside their cars, rather than increasing the threshold temperature for the A/C. Reducing the fan speed will reduce the amount of cold air entering the cabin, and will help regulate temperature, but at the cost of the cabin heating up from the outside to offset this cold air. Use the thermostat; reduce the amount of cooling from extreme cold (blue) to an intermediate position (halfway between blue and red). Do not go into the red zone, it would start the heating on most cars. Keep the blower speed up, and reduce temperature using this. Essentially this is what climate control does, in addition to giving you zones, whose temperature can be controlled. How this helps? – Well a lower setting in the blue zone will ensure that the Compressor cuts out, once the optimum temperature is reached. And when the compressor cuts out, the load on the engine is alleviated. This reduces the amount of energy (fuel) wasted by the engine in turning the compressor. Not only that, it prolongs the life of the compressor, since it is not operating continuously. In bigger cars, do not rely on the A/C to cool the cabin extensively. Yes it will do it, but use the recirculation button (allowing outside air to enter the cabin), and lower those damn windows to let some outside air come inside. A car parked in the sun with windows rolled up is like a greenhouse, only hotter on the inside. At any time, the outer surrounding air will be at least 5-7 degrees cooler. Let them cool the insides first, before using the A/C. There are other factors that can be discussed for reducing the strain on the A/C like heat reflecting sun film, parking in the shade, cooling the car before embarking etc etc. But that’s for a later discussion. This is about reducing the strain on the engine in every possible way, so that it runs most efficiently and burns the least amount of fuel. 4. Watch that Accelerator I’ve heard people say, to eke out maximum efficiency, drive as if there is an egg between your foot and the accelerator pedal. Actually let me say that again.. I got so damn bored of hearing people talking about driving as if there is an egg between your foot and the accelerator that one time when I was 19-20, I actually did that. Yup, took an egg, wrapped it into a plastic bag, and taped it to my right shoe. What happened? I drove well for about 100 meters till I had to brake. I braked and splat went the egg. And that was the end of that argument. Light footed driving yes, however when and how is very important. For eg. Its important to ease off the accelerator when you have reached your cruising speed. Also when you are going downhill. However in some cars its better to get upto speed as soon as possible, rather than egging the car to accelerate and then shifting gears with ages between each gear. Controlling the accelerator goes hand in hand with your gearshifts, which will be discussed after this. The accelerator plays the most important part in controlling and improving the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. Some people are inherently heavy footed ( not that they are pregnant or overweight ) and Some drive like dainty daisies ( making me wanna puke on their windscreens ). The ideal way, well is to know what your car does, and what its capable of. Ill explain this with an example. Every car engine has a torque zone and a power zone, well explained by the various auto journals and TV shows around. The fact to realize is, that if you are in the optimum torque zone of your engine, you can actually lift off the accelerator and let the torque of the engine pull the vehicle along at the desired speed. This can only be achieved by trial and error, however once reached, it’s a great feeling to know that you can cruise at 80kmph, with just a feather touch of the accelerator. So keep an eye out for the rpm meter. Its not just to tell you where the shift point of the car is, but also when the engine is in the optimum torque or power zone. 5. Shift right, Shift left.. Shift wherever you want, just shift correctly!!! Unfortunately we in India are not privy to the concept of auto transmission ( which IMO is really really negative to fuel efficiency ). However all manufacturers strive to follow one rule of gear shifting, x10. Your gear selection should/can be 1/10th of what your speed is. So 3rd at 30 kmph, 4th at 40 kmph and so forth. Even if the manufacturer recommends otherwise ( which they generally do ). What to do? Let the car struggle in a high gear at a low speed? Or let it burn more fuel at a higher rpm in a lower gear for the same speed? This has been argued and debated over ages. What I found working best for me was dependent on the traffic, which is again related to your gear shifting and will be discussed next. So if you know that you are in smooth steady traffic, then take it easy, follow traffic, and shift slowly, accelerating slowly and coming upto speed. However if you are on an open expressway/highway, best bet is to get upto top gear as soon as possible and then cruise it out from there. While you stretch each gear quite a bit. In layman language? Well if I know I am in slow steady traffic, Ill shift into 3rd at 30 and 4th at 40, because there is not strain on the engine to keep up with traffic, and I can afford to do so, in result maximizing my fuel efficiency. However if I am on the highway, and I had to brake for that dog/cyclewala/rickshaw etc, I should quickly pull my gear, hold onto 2nd till 40, 3rd till about 60-70 and get into 4th around 80 and stick to that speed. This saves me time + the amount of fuel spent on a higher revving engine for a lesser speed. 6. Watch your traffic and follow the flow. Very very important. No point zipping ahead and then braking hard. Remember, for good fuel efficiency, your brake pedal must be used the least. Why? Because everytime you brake, you are wasting energy that was used in bringing the vehicle up to speed. And if you have to brake everytime you speed up, then either you are over speeding or not driving properly. Go with the flow, however fast or slow. At times it will be frustrating, but remember you will be using only that much fuel that you need, not wasting it by letting it go under heavy braking from high speed. Some people have gone to extreme lengths to control this. A term “ Hyper milling” has been coined for the same. Wherein they coast behind moving traffic, drafting behind huge trucks, reducing drag and loss of energy. However we are not discussing all that. You have a regular commute, You have been on that route for ages, Im sure you would even know where each bump/pothole/speed breaker is even. Then why still zip ahead. Go with the steady flow of traffic, it will actually help your fuel consumption. Rule of hand. You should never have to brake hard at a red light at an intersection. Your speed should be such that you should be able to coast to a halt, with very little braking effort required. Not only does it improve mileage, but your brakes and tyres last longer. Tyres… which have to be discussed further.. Since they are also linked to squeezing out the maximum from your fuel. 7. Tyres / Tyre pressure. Enough has been said and discussed about tyres, and how the right tyre pressure helps mileage and even a drop of 2 psi can affect your mileage negatively and what not. There are some low rolling resistance tyres from company like Michelin, and then there are some who put up ultra wide tyres in the interest of better grip and handling. Bottomline? In India, most manufacturers undertyre their cars, in the interest of better fuel efficiency, rather than grip or handling. So your car tyres are essentially a size smaller than they should be. However some people ( taxi drivers used to ) go to even greater lengths to reduce the contact patch between the vehicle and the road in the interest of fuel economy. Does it work? Yes. Is it safe? Nope, not at all. Whats the recommendation? Keep an eye on your tyre pressure more than often. This will really help ensure that your rolling resistance is to a minimum. Morever a correctly inflated and equally inflated vehicle will run smoother and put even load and wear on all tyres. Bigger, broader tyres might look good, however they are not needed where efficiency is of the question. ( note – A bigger diameter tyre with the same width might improve efficiency, but at the cost of reducing efficiency in the lower gears or lower vehicle speed ). You might wanna invest in tyres that give good mileage, but most of them are hard wearing, hard compound tyres, which suffer greatly under wet conditions or otherwise also. So its all a matter of personal choice. However the points I would like to stress on are. Tyre pressure, Tyre wear, and tyre type. Keep these in mind alongwith your requirements and you will get your optimum point. A commuter car might not need those high performance super grip tyres, and could do with cheaper, harder wearing hard compound tyres, provided if? Provided if you drive safe and at sane speeds. 8. Keep those windows rolled up – Yup, in contradiction to the part about rolling the windows down to cool the vehicle, for optimum fuel efficiency, the windows should actually be rolled up. If you want, you may open the air vents to allow outside air to enter, or use the A/C, it will actually be more fuel efficient then driving with your windows down. Why? Especially for hatchbacks, the glass at the back, on the boot gate, acts like a massive drag ?#@*&%!^$~e. What happens when you roll down the windows and drive at 65+ kmph, is that the air creates massive drag, since it enters the vehicle, and strikes the rear glass. This has a para?#@*&%!^$~e effect, and actually increases the strain on the engine. You can actually try this yourself. Try timing your acceleration with all the windows rolled up, and then with the windows rolled down. The difference is the amount of engine power lost to overcome the drag effect of the rear glass. 5) Keep it smooth baby, Slinky smooth – Any and all additions to the exterior of the vehicle create turbulence/drag, unless they have been actually tested to suit the shape and design of the vehicle. So basically doing up your car like it came out of NFS underground or the latest set of Fast and the Furious, is not really helping the aerodynamic efficiency of the vehicle. Remember reading of aerodynamic drag? Cd? And cars having CD of 0.25 or 0.3. That’s basically a ratio of the surface area on which drag is acting compared to the total surface are of the vehicle’s cross section. Adding accessories like hood intakes, scoops, front air dam (unless properly designed), spoilers, skirting etc, not only adds weight, but also adds aerodynamic drag. And remember, above a certain speed, (I think its around 80 kmph), More than half of the engine power is going in overcoming this drag. So keep those Xtra large rear view mirrors in check, do with the ones that come fitted. And keep accessorizing to a minimum on the outside. 9. Keep the Engine/Clutch/Drive train maintained. Most of the efficiency of the engine will also rely on how well the engine is maintained/tuned. Sadly tuning is now left best to the ECU. However there are some factors that can contribute to better fuel economy. - Spark Plugs – Invest in multi electrode spark plugs, only if you are planning to keep the car for a long period of time ( say 5-7 years ). So that you benefit from the investment as well. Otherwise conventional plugs, but ensure that they get replaced in time ( Intervals vary between 15-30,000 kms ). - Air Filter – Clean the Air filter more than frequently. Yes they are designed for the dusty conditions that we have in India, however, the more choked/clogged an air filter is going to be, the more effort the engine piston will have in sucking air into the cylinder. So rather than waiting for the filter to be cleaned every 10,000 kms or so, it would actually benefit you to do it more frequently, like every 2500 kms or so. And in most cars, its just about popping 3-4 clips and you have access to the fliter. A number of good taps, and some blasting with a vaccum/air pressure if available, and you are good to go. You can invest in filters like K&N, but then its again the economics that dictate what you need. If you are gonna be changing 10 filters over the duration of the ownership of the vehicle, and each one is 300-500 Rs, then a K&N for 5000/- does’nt really feel bad. However if you are going to change your vehicle sooner, think about it, do you really need it? Just clean the filter regularly!!!! - Clutch – A slipping clutch, or driving with your foot on the clutch will waste unnecessary energy, since the engine will not be transferring all the power to the wheels. So be careful of the habit of riding the clutch when you drive, and watch out for early signs of slippage ( engine revs up, but vehicle does not speed up comparatively, and then suddenly surges ahead ). - Drivetrain – Keep an ear out for wear and tear of the bushings, linkages, hub bearings, axles etc. Best checked during each service after jacking up the car. This should be of concern on vehicles that have done 60,000 kms or more since by then these components have lived out a decent part of their lives. Remember, any drag that’s being created by these components, not only is reducing your efficiency, but also heating up these components due to friction, and becoming a scenario for mechanical failure. - Brakes – Ensure that your brakes are serviced and maintained properly. During the jacked up inspection, ensure that all wheels are rotating freely, and are not being grabbed or binded anywhere. This will not only ensure that your brakes don’t fail, don’t overheat and work properly, and again, reduce the drag/load on the engine. 10. Fuel the right fuel!!! This is essential. So important that it needs a section by itself. Why? Because – 1) Are you getting the right quantity? No point of a saving if you are losing 50 ml of fuel every litre, that’s 5 litres for every 100 litres fueling!! 2) Is it the right grade? – Do you need premium or xtrapower fuel? Or are you better off saving the 1-3 rupees and going with regular fuel? 3) Is your petrol pump correct? – Company owned? Private ownership? Is the fuel pure? Any impurities? Have you ever gone to a petrol pump and asked them for a purity check? Or quantity check? Hehe. Nope. No one bothers. But if you look at the impact. If you lose say about 5 litres of fuel per month, that’s 60 litres a year! Or depending on where you are reading this from, 3500-4200 rupees a year!!! Recommendations ? Try and implement the following – - Find a company owned (preferably) pump along your route, If you doubt the quality/quantity, check around, get tests done, till you actually find one that you can trust. - Remember to chalk your route and refueling intervals in such a way that you refuel from the same pump. - Fill only till the auto cut off. Do not over fill. And also ensure that the fuel cap is properly sealed. A lot of fuel gets lost if you overfill beyond cut off, and if the cap is not properly secured. - Change your grade. If you have been using premium fuel, because your car runs smoother, silikier and gives better performance, whats the improvement in mileage? Is there any? Do a cost analysis, and figure out if its actually worth it. Most engines in India are designed to run on 87 octane and worse even. So you are not really improving or harming your engine if you feed it a higher or a lower grade. Its designed to run on it. - The above wont be applicable on a high compression engine, which will actually benefit from a higher octane fuel, and run cooler. So try both grades, and see which gives you better efficiency. 11. Traffic timing/route/distance – - Some things that I learnt over the course of commuting to my college everyday on my bike, was that if I left just 20 minutes earlier, the bike commute over a distance of 25 kms, that took my 45-50 minutes generally, would take me only 30 minutes. I would actually see the traffic bunching up behind me as I rode to college. I tried going to college about an hour before my regular time of departure. 18 minutes! Yup! 18 minutes. And the peace of riding on the open roads was terrific, and a great experience early up in the morning. Essentially I stopped checking my email and online sites at home, and started doing that once I reached my college. Time it out. See if you gain something by moving out early. An hour early even. The relaxation that accompanies stress free driving, and not worrying about getting late, or getting stuck in a jam, helps productivity and your concentration at work. Plus helps you earn brownie points with the boss as well. This will help your driving/wear and tear of the vehicle/fuel efficiency/mental peace and what not!! And you can do the same in the evening ( if permitted ) by moving out early and beating rush hour traffic! - Finding alternate routes/paths – Now with Google maps being available, its become a breeze trying to figure out a way to your destination. But sometimes, you do get options of the faster method or the shorter method. For regular commuters, its hit and trial. Try all possible routes till you know which one is the best for you. Just do not go with the flow and stick to the conventional ways. See if there are any shortcuts to be made to gain ahead on main road traffic. Though this being India, if there is a shortcut, we have already exploited it, but then bearing this in mind does help!! Remember, A smoother drive at a stead speed with minimum braking/stoppage will make your drive an efficient drive.