Save Money While You Drive Your Car

Three things in life are certain. It is unwise to lie to SARS, some day we are going to die, and the price of petrol is going to keep going up. In fact, it has been rocketing up in South Africa since 1976. The government does very nicely out of this with its fuel levy and VAT. All that we can do is drive intelligently, and use as little fuel as we can.

Used cars

How Car Engines Work

You probably already know that these have pistons that go up and down, and that when they go down they suck fuel into the engine. When we push the accelerator all the way down, we feed the monster more of it. Engines are greedy things. They are quite happy to be overfed all the time. If you want to save money while you drive your car, you have to play the accelerator like a violin. It is as simple as that!

Hot Fuel Saving Tips

  • Lose Weight – Most of us should probably do this anyway. However, this time I am talking about the unnecessary things we carry around in our cars. Keep the fuel tank hovering on a quarter unless you are driving a long distance. Chuck out everything unnecessary including heavy floor mats, books you are never going to read, the kid’s sports equipment and the stuff lying in the boot you are too lazy to take out.

  • Pump Your Tyres Right – Remember the last time you rode a bicycle with a puncture? You could not get up to speed, and it kept on wobbling. Under-pressure tyres slow a car down the same way. This means you push the accelerator further down to reach the speed you want. Do not fall for the temptation of over-inflating the tyres. Your car may roll sweeter. You may use less fuel. But your tyres will wear out before you realise this is happening.

  • Turn Your Car into a Smoothie – Car manufacturers go to a great deal of trouble to make their cars as slippery as possible, so they glide through the air like jet planes. This makes them fuel-efficient and we buy them for that reason. What happens next? We fit horses on the bonnets (well some of us), roof racks that stay on all year round, spoilers on the boots that add to wind resistance, and fancy wheel trims that have the opposite effect. After that, we drive round with the windows down and the air conditioner turned off, because we think we are saving money. We are not. Trust me, SARS and the oil companies are loving you for doing that.

  • Imagine You Are in Space – Next time you watch Captain Picard and his crew on television, notice how they tickle their Star Ship Enterprise with tiny rocket bursts that keep it moving gently in the right direction. Accelerate gradually until you reach the required speed and only push the throttle down sufficiently to maintain it. Never, ever go down a hill in neutral. You are only partly in control, and you are using more fuel by idling than coasting down with your foot off the pedal. If you are stuck in a traffic jam, switch the engine off.

  • Glide to a Stop at Robots – It makes no sense at all to scream up to a red light and then hit the brakes. You waste money in three ways: by burning more petrol, wearing your brake pads out and stressing your tyres. Try gliding gently to a stop instead. The same logic applies to driving on a busy motorway. See how long you can maintain a safe distance, without ever coming to a stop.

Imagine for a moment that you own a Maserati sports car. Those things are hideously expensive to buy and operate. So you would limit your shopping trips, tell the kids to walk down to the shops, and catch the bus to school. Imagine how much petrol you would save. Treat your family car the same way and follow the tips I mentioned. You will slash your petrol bill by up to half. I kid you not.