Here are some useful tips that can help you become a greener, more fuel-efficient driver both on- and off-road.
Weight is your enemy
This is an obvious one, but one that can be hard for 4×4 owners to sidestep. With extra off-road equipment, driving
lights, a UHF antenna, roof racks and an extra spare tyre, the weight begins to add up.
It can be tempting to keep everything in your vehicle, ready for your next adventure, but you’ll pay a premium to do so. Reducing the weight of your vehicle by as little as 50kg could result in a fuel economy improvement of between 1-2%. So, if you’re not planning to go anywhere anytime soon, remove the unnecessary gear from your vehicle and save some money for your next trip.
Similarly, when you are heading out into the countryside, think about what you’ll actually need and only take essentials.
Take bulky stuff off the roof
If you regularly carry gear on your roof racks while off-roading, remember to remove it when you get back home. Leaving a roof pod, roof cage or rooftop tent bolted on top of your 4×4 when you don’t need it creates unnecessary aerodynamic drag (or wind resistance).
Indeed, depending on where you’re driving and the speed you’re travelling at, driving around with bulky items on the rooftop can increase fuel consumption by up to 25% (increasing the faster you drive).
Aggressive acceleration and braking can increase your fuel consumption by up to 30%. What you want to do is accelerate gently, then once you’re at the speed limit, maintain the posted limit while scanning the road ahead. If you do spot a traffic issue up ahead, lift off the throttle earlier to reduce speed gradually, rather than diving on the brakes at the last minute only to accelerate hard again to reach the desired speed.
One handy hint when you’re driving on the highway is to make use of cruise control as this will help maintain the posted speed limit without sudden fuel-sucking fluctuations in speed; just remember to deactivate the cruise control when there are hazardous driving conditions.
It’s simple, the faster you go, the more fuel you’ll use. Up to around 80km/h, the energy required to overcome wind resistance on a vehicle is minimal. But push beyond that and drag increases exponentially.
If your vehicle has a real-time fuel economy reading you can use it to get an idea of how much fuel you’re using at different speeds, which will help you find your vehicle’s sweet spot. This could equate to being in top gear at the lowest possible revs. Driving at 80km/h in a 100km/h zone might get you great economy but it will also frustrate your fellow motorists. So, be aware the harder your vehicle has to work, the more fuel you’ll use.
Ensure your vehicle’s tyres are inflated as per the manufacturer’s recommendation (usually located on a sticker on the door sill, or in the owner’s manual). The importance of properly inflated tyres goes beyond just reducing rolling resistance and improving fuel efficiency: it’s also about vehicle safety. Over-inflate your tyres and you risk reduced grip and increased wear. Similarly, drive with tyre pressures too low and you’ll increase the rolling resistance which means your vehicle will be working harder to travel at the same speed.
Additionally, have the wheel alignment on your vehicle checked. If the alignment is out, the engine will be working harder and thus using more fuel, not to mention you’ll be reducing the life of your tyres, and adversely affect your vehicle’s handling.
Time to tow
Fuel consumption increases when towing, so the main thing you need to do to maximise fuel consumption is to watch your speed. And by that, we mean keeping your speed down because as you increase speed, wind resistance on your vehicle and your towed load increase, which means your vehicle’s engine has to work harder to maintain the posted speed limit.
Driving 10-15km/h under the speed limit (on the highway) won’t see you holding up traffic, but it should see you saving fuel.
Service is serious
Make sure you keep your vehicle regularly serviced. During each service, your dealership will run your vehicle through a barrage of checks, picking up on things like faulty sensors that can lead to increased fuel use.
For instance, fixing a faulty oxygen sensor could improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency by around 40%. Similarly, using the wrong engine oil in your vehicle can affect fuel consumption by up to 2%.
Combine your trips
How many times have you run to the shops or the local hardware store, got back home and then realised you need to go back because you forgot something? All of those little trips will see you use more fuel than a longer drive at a consistent speed. So, make a list of all the things you need to get and tick them off as you go.
Hot weather tips
Hotter weather helps your vehicle’s engine reach its optimum operating temperature much faster. But switching on the air-conditioning can place strain on the engine, which will see an increase in fuel consumption. On shorter trips in hot weather, running the air-con can increase fuel consumption by up to 25%. In warmer climates, comfort is usually more important than cost – but it’s worth remembering that a cool interior doesn’t come without a price.
To give your vehicle’s engine a helping hand, on hot days consider lowering the windows if you’re travelling at lower speeds and leave the A/C switched off.