With record-high fuel prices in 2022, driving with fuel efficiency in mind has never been more relevant – especially as South Africans prepare to head out across provinces to their chosen December holiday destinations.
As of 7 December 2022, motorists still pay more than R20/litre for petrol in South Africa, with petrol vehicles owners now paying R3.85 (19.6%) more for a litre of petrol, while diesel motorists are spending a significant R6.68 (38.7%) more for a litre since the start of the year when the price of 95 petrol was R19.61, and diesel was R17.24.
Additionally, toll fees nationwide have also increased, which the Department of Transport updated in March 2022.
In light of the high travel costs this December, Ford Motor said there are things you can do to reduce your fuel consumption which could result in tangible savings.
Ford Motor’s seven tips to help you save on fuel when travelling this holiday season are listed below.
1. Service your vehicle
Make sure your vehicle services are up to date to ensure your vehicle runs optimally.
“Important service parts include fluids, lights, wipers, wheels and tyres, belts and brakes. If these are not in good condition, they might make your vehicle work harder and use more fuel,” said Ford.
2. Check your tyres
Check your tyre pressure regularly and ensure it is inflated according to the manufacturer’s recommendation (usually on a placard inside a door sill). Under-inflated or worn tyres can increase their rolling resistance, which means your vehicle will work harder to travel at a given speed – resulting in higher fuel consumption.
“Under-inflated tyres will not only cause more drag and increase your fuel consumption, but they’ll also cause your tyres to wear out quicker and impact vehicle handling,” Ford fuel economy and performance attribute engineer Joe Percy.
He added that drivers should choose replacement tyres carefully, as non-standard aftermarket tyres can drastically degrade your vehicle’s fuel economy.
3. Weight is your enemy
The heavier the vehicle, the more fuel it uses – especially when taking off from a standstill and accelerating to get up to speed. This may be hard for 4WD vehicles to side-step, but installing a bull bar, driving lights, a UHF antenna, roof racks and an extra spare wheel and the weight begins to add up.
“You want to try and remove anything you’re not using, so things like emptying the gear out of drawers in the back of your vehicle or the 12V fridge you might have stored in the boot. This will help with fuel consumption,” said Ford.
4. Don’t over accessorise
While modifying your vehicle with some aftermarket accessories can make your car look nice, most will result in degradation, which will cause the vehicle to work harder and increase fuel consumption – especially for those that do a lot of highway driving.
Ford noted that the same goes for any bulky items you carry in the tray or roof. You shouldn’t be carrying gear on the roof of your 4×4 that you don’t need there and then.
“The moral to this story is, don’t worry about driving around looking like you’re heading into the Kruger National Park if you’re just doing a shopping run,” said Ford.
5. Drive sensibly
Aggressive acceleration and braking can dramatically increase your fuel consumption. Maintain good observation of the road and traffic around you and try to react to changes early so that you can accelerate slower, coast early and brake gently, said Ford.
It added that drivers should use cruise control or adaptive cruise control if their car is equipped with it. “Using cruise control allows the vehicle to take control of the accelerator pedal, brakes and transmission and will operate as smoothly and gently as the traffic allows – delivering more fuel economy and a smooth drive,” said Ford fuel economy and performance attribute engineer Matthew Roberts.
He added that you should never shift into Neutral when driving down a hill thinking you’ll save fuel, this is a myth, and it’s also hazardous.
6. Time to tow
When it comes to towing a trailer, you’re going to use more fuel than when you’re just driving around town or on the highway. But there are still things you can do to maximise fuel efficiency.
According to Ford, travelling 10-15km/h less than the speed limit can help save fuel and help with less hard braking.
Ford added that you should always keep your trailer or caravan well maintained; low tyre pressure, worn tyres or wheel bearings can make your vehicle work harder when towing.
If possible, fill up the water tank once you arrive at camp – reducing that weight whilst towing will help save on fuel. And don’t forget to close windows and air vents to maximise the aerodynamics of what you are pulling, said Roberts.
7. Air conditioning
Hotter weather will have you reaching for the air-conditioning but switching on your vehicle’s air-con places a load on the engine (it must work harder), which will cause it to use more fuel. To help reduce the burden, Ford suggests waiting until your car is up to speed on a highway or the road before you switch on your air conditioning.
This will help your engine warm up and require less ‘work’ to cool the aircon, reducing fuel consumption.
Ford added that when parking in hot weather, try to keep your vehicle in the shade as this will help the cabin stay cooler for longer, so your air-conditioning won’t have to work as hard to cool the car.