10 Practical steps you can take before you drive

Vehicle maintenance and driving style play a major role in determining whether or not we save fuel and reduce our Co2. If you care about reducing fuel costs and helping the environment, carrying out these basic maintenance and vehicle checks will make a considerable contribution to lowering your carbon footprint.

Motor Oil.
Use the vehicle manufacturers recommended grade of motor oil. You can improve your mpg mileage by 1-3 percent by using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil. Select motor oil with “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol. It contains friction-reducing additives.

Vehicle Servicing and engine tuning.
Keeping your car regularly serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations will save on fuel and running costs. Engine tuning can improve a vehicles mpg mileage by about 4 percent, replacing a dirty sparkplug can save up to 5 percent and replacing a faulty oxygen sensor can improve mpg mileage by a staggering 40 percent.

Get your exhaust checked out.
The exhaust system is designed to control and reduce emissions. When the components of this system wear out, it can affect both your emissions and your fuel consumption. Have the exhaust and emissions checked regularly, especially items such as the catalytic converter, which reduces nitrous oxide emissions.

Air Filters.
Check and replace air filters regularly. Replacing a clogged or dirty air filter can improve your car’s mpg mileage by as much as 10 percent and keeps impurities from damaging the inside of your engine.

Keep tyres properly inflated.
Under-inflated tyres are dangerous, not only do they lead to poor road holding but also cause excessive drag and resistance, and as a result increase fuel consumption. Properly inflated tyres are safer, last longer, and can improve your mpg mileage by more than 3 percent.

Make sure that your tyre pressures are set at the top end of the manufacturer specifications. When considering purchasing new tyres, aim to purchase rolling-resistance tires, these have been proven to increase fuel efficiency by about 5%. Remember for less rolling resistance - inflate your tyres to the higher pressure ratio recommended by the manufacturer.

Keep your car petrol tank half empty
Fuel is hugely heavy and by itself costs money to transport about. Try and get in the habit of only filling your car to half full and make sure you fully tighten the fuel gap to stop fuel vapours escaping. When it comes to filling up, higher-octane fuel may not make your car run any faster or better and your car may not need it. Follow the car’s manufacturer’s recommendations for the right fuel. You’ll be amazed at how much money you can safe by adopting these strategies. 

Clean out your car
Make sure you don’t have anything in the car you don’t absolutely need. Is the back seat really a good place for those items that should be in the shed.  Apart from a first aid kit, spare tire and associated repair and safety equipment, the boot should be kept empty.

Many of us throw things into the car boot such as heavy tool kits, golf clubs meaning to take them out later but don’t, this additional weight in the boot doesn't ride for free, it takes energy(fuel) to move it around, for every 45 kilograms you add to your car, you use about 2% more fuel.

Take off the roof box or cycle rack when not in use.
Car designers work hard to make their vehicles as aerodynamic as possible. Adding a roof box or rack can spoil this by increasing drag on your car and therefore increasing your engine workload and fuel usage. You will be surprised how much more economical it is to drive without these non-aerodynamic appendages on board. A Spanish research study found that using a large roof box whilst travelling at motorway speeds could increase your fuel consumption by as much as 39%.

When carrying goods.
If you have to carry items outside the vehicle. It is more aerodynamic and therefore more economical to carry them on the back of the vehicle, instead of on the roof. This is particularly important the faster and further you intend to travel.

Avoid towing.
If you have the option - avoid towing. Trailer towing delivers the triple whammy of increased weight, higher aerodynamic drag, and a third (or fourth) set of tires for more rolling resistance. Carry loads in the vehicle if possible. If not, minimize towing speeds and adjust your technique to account for the extra momentum the trailer and its load will add.

Read further in this series - Choices that will safe money and help the environment