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What's the best way to cut fuel bills?

Words ByWhat Car? Staff

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What's the best way to cut my fuel bills?

Simply by changing your driving style, you can improve your car's MPG and therefore cut your fuel bills. Here's how.

Anticipation
Reading the road ahead is not only a good driving skill, it's a key part of eco-safe driving. It gives you more time to react, so you shouldn't have to brake suddenly, and this will reduce the amount of fuel used. You should accelerate and brake more progressively; usefully, this also reduces the wear on brakes, tyres and engine.

Fewer gear changes
Many drivers are taught to change up through the gears on a manual car, but there are situations where gears can be skipped, saving fuel. If conditions allow, change straight from second to fourth, or third to fifth, without straining the engine. This not only saves fuel but it can also reduce wear and tear on the clutch because you'll do fewer gearchanges.

Watch the lights
When driving in built-up areas, there are usually stretches of road with several sets of traffic lights. These are often out of phase, so you don't get a clear run though them. Accelerating gently away from one junction and then stopping gently for the next saves both fuel and your brakes. Simply cruise from one set of lights to the next.

Drive at 55mph
A speed limit is just that: a limit, not a target. You don't have to drive that fast, and slowing down even a little could make a noticeable difference to your fuel consumption. Try dropping your speed to 65mph on a motorway, or even 55mph depending on the road. You will not only have a more relaxing journey, but you will also pay less visits to fuel stations.

Use gravity
When driving uphill, your view of the road ahead may be obstructed. You'll need to slow down, but rather than applying the brakes, simply ease off the throttle. The increased effort of travelling uphill will slow the car sufficiently until you can decide if you should brake or accelerate.

You can also use gravity to help you pull away when facing downhill. Select second gear, release the brakes, and when the car has started to roll, balance the clutch and accelerator to pull away smoothly.

Avoid over-revving
When pulling away, don't use more revs than required, and balance the clutch. Using too many revs wastes fuel and wears your clutch unnecessarily. Always change into the next gear if you can do so without straining the engine.

Keep moving
An engine has to work hard to move a stationary car, so keep moving wherever possible. When approaching a junction or a similar delay, allow the engine to slow the car by removing your foot from the throttle. This gives the situation ahead time to clear, so that you might be able to continue without coming to a dead stop. However, don't forget to maintain a safe distance from the car in front.

Best when hot
A car engine is at its most inefficient when cold, and low-speed manoeuvring increases fuel consumption. When you park up, position the car so that it will be easy to drive away when the engine is cold for example, reverse into your driveway in the evening, so that you can drive straight off the next morning.