10 ways to save fuel when driving an automatic car

With the cost of petrol having breached R20 per litre in December, and diesel up to R18:00 for a litre, motorists in South Africa should be looking at ways to bring down their driving costs.

As a driver of an automatic car, it feels like there’s not much in your control to save on petrol costs, but there are driving techniques that’ll extend your fuel to the end of the month, says Suzuki Auto South Africa.

Save money in your automatic with these insider tips on driving fuel efficiently.

1. Keep your momentum

It’s science – a body in motion stays in motion and therefore uses less energy and fuel. Don’t brake unless needed, and driving slowly and consistently will keep your car going forward.

2. Don’t keep your foot on the brake

Resting your foot on the brake pedal, no matter how lightly, immediately applies drag to the car, which hugely impacts fuel economy. Says How Stuff Works, “It’ll place an unnecessary burden on the engine and transmission. You’ll wear out your brakes rapidly, as well.”

3. Tyres properly inflated

Your car only touches the ground on, quite literally, a handful of places. Each tyre has a portion as big as the palm of your hand that actually touches the road – and this has a huge impact on your driving and fuel efficiency. An underinflated tyre causes your car to drag, increases stopping distances and is generally unsafe.

4. Don’t drive angry

Racing to the traffic light, fast braking and accelerating all consumes fuel rapidly. Aggressive driving can increase your fuel consumption by 33% at highway speeds and by 5% around town. Accelerate gently, and pull away slowly to save petrol.

5. Stay cool while cruising on the highway

Use your air conditioning wisely, car manufacturers explain that your car may use more fuel to power your air-con at lower speeds but cruising on the highway with your air-con on, won’t make a difference to your fuel consumption.

6. Transmission

You’ll find that some automatic cars stay in lower gears longer than is fuel-efficient. Try coaxing the transmission into shifting earlier than it wants to by taking your foot off the accelerator after 50 Km/h. Accelerate slowly when you’re in the higher gears.

7. Make fewer trips

The more trips you make, the less fuel you’re going to save. This is because once your car is parked for a few hours, the engine has cooled down and it will use more fuel to for the first 10 kilometres or so. Try to combine going grocery shopping and picking up your kids from their after-school activities if you can.

8. It’s all about maintenance

When your car runs smoothly and is in good mechanical condition, you’ll be able to get the best fuel economy from it. How Stuff Works says that sending your car for regular maintenance can boost fuel economy up to 10%.

Regularly schedule maintenance so that car parts will last longer, allowing you to save money through less fuel consumption and reducing repair costs.

9. Cruising when you can

The RAC UK say that cruise control actually helps with saving fuel when driving on a consistent flat surface such as highways and freeways. This is due to driving at a constant speed, which cancels out unnecessary acceleration.

Using your cruise control on steep hills could increase your fuel consumption as the cruise control will attempt to keep your vehicle travelling at a constant speed that uses more fuel.

10. Don’t lose traction

Your tyres are more likely to slip on wet or gravel surfaces, and each time that happens you lose fuel mileage as well as endanger yourself and others. Make sure to take care when starting off on unpaved and slippery roads and slow down on rough surfaces.

All of these small, manageable changes add up to savings you’ll feel between payday, said Suzuki Auto South Africa.

Read: A R10.50 per litre alternative to South Africa’s record-high petrol price

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10 ways to save fuel when driving an automatic car