From Wednesday, 2 February, motorists will be paying substantially more for fuel – 53c more per litre for petrol and up to 80c more for diesel – putting cash-strapped South Africans under even more pressure. The good news is that, through a few relatively simple and practical changes to the way they drive and maintain their cars, they can save themselves some serious cash – around R20 000 a year.
“A few minor changes could lead to big savings. R100 here and R50 there eventually add up to substantial savings over a year,” says Susan Steward from Budget Insurance, “The tweaks we can make on the road may seem insignificant, but could very well help you to buy other essentials, settle debt faster, save more or even go on that well-deserved family break.”
With a few minor adjustments to your driving habits and with regular car maintenance, you can boost the fuel efficiency of your car by as much as 40%. So, if you fill up 4 times a month, or 48 times a year at roughly R1000 per tank, a 40% reduction in fuel consumption could save you close to R20 000 a year.
Budget Insurance offers the following tips to save on fuel:
- Service smart: A car can burn up to 30% more fuel if proper maintenance is not performed on a regular schedule, so make sure that your car is serviced regularly. Things like worn spark plugs, worn rings, faulty injectors, sticky brakes, low coolant levels, dirty oil, and dirty filters all lead to inefficiency and higher fuel consumption
- Wheel wise: Check your car’s wheel alignment. Bad wheel alignment causes more friction, which takes more power to overcome and results in higher fuel consumption.
- Pressure check: Check for underinflated tyres, as these, too, increase resistance.
- Air con costs a cool buck: Use the air conditioning only when necessary, as it places additional load on the engine.
- Dead weight: Reduce the vehicle’s weight by removing unnecessary items from it and, if you mostly do city driving, consider driving with only half a tank of fuel.
- Nice and slow: Don’t speed. The gas-guzzling effects of “stepping on it” are well-known.
- Don’t stop-start: Maintain momentum by looking and planning ahead, flowing with traffic and timing your approaches to hills, traffic lights and crossings better.
- Geared for efficiency: Drive at the lowest speed in the highest gear that the road and traffic conditions allow, without labouring the engine.
- Tech savvy: Many vehicles have economy settings to optimise performance, throttle response, ride height etc. for maximum fuel efficiency. Use them to your advantage.
- Plan ahead: Use your GPS to check for traffic and avoid problem areas. Do several tasks on one round trip, as opposed to many shorter ones. This eliminates unnecessary mileage and saves time.
- Wait out the rush: Battling through traffic not only increases fuel consumption, but also causes wear and tear, especially on your vehicle’s transmission and brakes.
“If it’s within your reach, it could also be a smart move to sell that big or old gas guzzler and rather invest in a vehicle that runs on less expensive fuel, or is just more economical to drive,” Steward concludes, “It needn’t cost and arm and a leg either. With a bit of smart bargain shopping you could save on repayments, maintenance costs, insurance and fuel.”