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Fuel Economy: The Myths and the Musts

 

It is one of the most discussed topics amongst South Africans. The state of the fuel price and fuel-saving practices have long been able to spark an entire conversation.

Tips on lowering your vehicle’s fuel consumption are numerous and every relative, friend or general acquaintance seems to have a couple of them stowed away, ready to deliver at their earliest convenience.

But have we ever taken the time to consider whether these fuel saving tips are actually true? This article serves to prove that many, if not most of them, are no more than fairy-tales.

A Dirty Air Filter Leads to Increased Fuel Consumptionfuel-consumption

This belief is true for some cars and totally false for most. The vast majority of vehicles on the road today have fuel-injected rather than carburetted engines. Carburetted engines draw air directly through the air filter, and a clogged filter could affect the performance and fuel consumption of the vehicle. Fuel-injected engines, however, have complicated air-intake systems that are not affected in the slightest by a dirty air filter.

You Get More Fuel If You Fill Up When It Is Cooler

This is a very well-known myth that periodically does the rounds in the form of a chain email. The story goes that one should fill up your tank at the coolest part of the day, namely the very early morning hours, as the heat absorbed by the petrol tanks at filling stations during the day cause the fuel’s density to drop, thus you get less when filling up during daylight hours. The reality of the matter is that the large underground holding tanks at fuel stations are very thoroughly insulated to prevent this scenario from occurring. Any fluctuations in the fuel temperatures are so miniscule that you will not be able to notice any appreciable differences in fuel savings.

Vehicles With Manual Transmissions Get Better Mileage

Decades ago, cars typically came with two options pertaining to the transmission: a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 3-speed automatic one. As a semi-skilled driver could control the engine’s revolutions per minute with a 5-speed manual transmission, one tended to save a lot of fuel by staying away from automatic vehicles. These days, however, automatic transmissions are control by sophisticated computers and are a lot more efficient than any manual human operator could ever be.

Lowering a Bakkie’s Tailgate Increases Fuel Economy

People have often assumed that a bakkie with its tailgate lowered is more aerodynamic, and thus less taxing on its fuel supply. The reverse is actually true: your bakkie is less fuel efficient with the tailgate down. Another common assumption is that replacing the tailgate with an aftermarket net makes the vehicle more efficient. This is the worst thing you can do, as it is tantamount to a boat pulling a fishing net behind it.

Other Untrue Fuel Consumption Myths

  • Overfilling your fuel tanks helps mileage;
  • Fuel additives increase mileage;
  • Cruise control saves fuel;
  • A tank that is nearly full prevents evaporation of fuel;
  • Shifting into neutral at stops saves fuel.

 

Fuel Economy Musts

The following tips actually do work, and should be implemented by every driver that wishes to save fuel:

  • Slow down – you can use up to 25% more fuel if you drive at 120km/h as opposed to 100km/h;
  • Avoid breakneck acceleration;
  • Keep your momentum and try to anticipate the traffic;
  • Maintain and regularly service your vehicle;
  • Try to not use the air conditioner;
  • Use your handbrake on inclines – clutch control gobbles up fuel;
  • Do not warm your engine up before driving – this is usually only necessary in older vehicles and is wholly unnecessary in newer vehicles;
  • All electronic components put a strain on the alternator, causing the engine to work harder, so switch of the unnecessary ones;
  • Plan to combine many short trips into one;
  • Consider replacing your tyres with the radial-ply kind as they decrease resistance, but beware to not mix the normal cross-ply with radial-ply tyres on the same axle.

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