IT’S the holidays again. Many of us will be getting into our cars and making the long drive back to the kampung. Fill up the car with luggage, kids and petrol and head off into the sunset (and inevitable traffic).

But things being what they are, many of us would like to maximise our car’s fuel consumption. It only makes sense. So take note of these tips and make your tank of petrol go further than ever before.

TYRE PRESSURES

Check your tyre pressures. Under-inflated tyres burn fuel. Go for the maximum recommended tyre pressures and check them when they are cold. A hot tyre gives a false reading.

FILLING UP

Keep the nozzle in the tank until after the pump shuts off and make sure you allow all the fuel to pour out of the nozzle. Surprisingly, there is still some left in the hose.

CRUISE CONTROL

Use your cruise control if you have one. This can save you up to six per cent in fuel consumption on the highway. Usually, the highway speed limit is a happy setting for the cruise control. Setting it faster usually results in a busy “on-off” situation.

ELECTRICAL TIP

Corroded battery cables cause the alternator to work harder, using more fuel. Have them cleaned as a matter of course with the pre-holiday engine check-up.

LESS IDLING

Don’t let your car’s engine idle for more than a minute. Idling consumes fuel and pumps needless CO2 into the atmosphere. The modern engine will consume less fuel turning off and re-starting rather than idling for extended periods. Simply start the engine, wait for 20 seconds to build the oil pressure and drive off.

AIR FILTER

When was the last time you changed your air filter? Change it according to the manual, or more times if you drive in dusty conditions. Consider a lifetime performance air filter, which flows more air.

ENGINE TUNE-UP

Asides from your regular engine check-up, have your mechanic check the condition of the engine oil, spark plugs, etc, before the trip. Besides the air and oil filters, don’t forget the fuel filter, too.

OXYGEN SENSOR

If your car was built since the mid-1980s, chances are it has an oxygen sensor in its exhaust system. Consider replacing it, especially if you have never done so. This hard-working device trims the fuel delivery and will affect fuel economy if it is worn out.

GEAR SELECTION

If you drive manual, driving in the highest gear possible without labouring the engine is an fuel-efficient method. Driving at 60kph, a vehicle will use 25 per cent more fuel in third gear than it would in fifth. Accelerating fast in lower gears can consume up to 45 per cent more fuel. If you have an onboard trip computer, watch the gauge and keep the litres per 100km as low as you can. Some cars have an Eco light or icon that lights up when you reach an economical speed. Try keeping this lit up as much as you can.

AVOID THE THROTTLE PEDAL

Drive as smoothly as you can. By applying light throttle and avoiding heavy braking, you can reduce both fuel consumption and wear and tear. Let the vehicle lose speed on hill ascents and pick it back up on the descents. Driving techniques such as this can influence fuel efficiency by as much as 30 per cent.

LIGHT IS RIGHT

Lighten the load on your car. Think carefully about what you need on the journey. If you do not need something, do not pack it. Remove roof racks as they create wind drag. The lighter the load, the lower the fuel consumption and emissions. Get rid of that bag of cement in the boot.

RIGHT FUEL

Choose the right octane gas for your car. Your owner’s manual will tell you or your fuel tank cap has it. Resist the urge to buy higher octane gas for “extra” performance. We aren’t “racing” back to the kampung.

DRIVE STEADY

Driving steadily means anticipating traffic flow. Slowing down or speeding up wastes fuel. Keep a safe distance so your throttle pedal is mostly steady. Avoid tailgating as it means you won’t be able to drive steadily.

REST THAT LEFT FOOT

Do not rest your left foot on the brake pedal while driving. The slightest pressure drags on the brakes and demands additional fuel usage to overcome the drag.

ALIGNMENT AND BALANCING

Have the wheels checked for balancing and alignment. Bent wheels, axles, worn shocks, and broken springs can contribute to drivetrain drag, wasting fuel.

GOING OFF-ROAD?

Sport utility vehicle and four-wheel drive vehicle owners should consider switching from an aggressive patterned off-road tread to a fuel efficient highway tyres before the trip.

If you do all the above, I guarantee you will be surprised at how far your car will go before the reserve light comes on. So, drive safe and see you all again after the holidays.

Of course, you will service the car after the long trip, won’t you?

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