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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dr Brace's fuel diet

An expert reveals ten essential tips to increase your fuel economy - and reduce your bills.

Being a better driver doesn't just revolve around foot-to-the-floor performance, lightning reactions and death-defying cornering speeds. Smoothness, anticipation, and a little bit of plain old-fashioned courtesy can get you a long way - especially when it comes to improving your car's fuel economy.

Journalists from motoring magazine V-ZINE spent a day with Dr Chris Brace, senior lecturer in Automotive Engineering at Bath University's Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre to brush up on economy driving.

By the end of it, they'd recorded a 50 percent improvement in the economy of their Alfa Romeo Brera 2.4 JTDM. Now it's your turn to share Dr Brace's ten-point driving plan...

1) Treat your car to some TLC
'You should have your car regularly serviced and carry out maintenance checks of your own. Fresh oil will better lubricate the engine, while the correct tyre pressures ensure optimum rolling resistance for your rubber.'

2) Lighten up
'You may carry your life around with you in the back of your car, but you'd be better off leaving it at home. The heavier the car, the harder the engine has to work, so a 15 percent weight increase will see economy fall by the same amount.'

3) Starting and idling
'People are tempted to leave their car to warm at idle before a journey, but it's better for the engine and economy if you warm it up on the move. And when you come to a halt again, switching the engine off at the traffic lights saves you wasting fuel. Around a litre an hour is burned at idle.'

4) Smooth mover
'When you're driving, smoothness with the controls is key to making your fuel go further. Acceleration should be measured and progressive and you should aim to stay within the engine's peak torque band - typically 2,000 to 3,000rpm. Another tip is to avoid coasting in neutral. It's a common misconception that this saves fuel, but actually modern engines don't consume fuel when coasting in gear.'

5) Slippery customer
'Think about how long designers and aerodynamicists spend trying to make a car's body cut smoothly through the air. By opening your window or sunroof, or piling bikes and boxes onto the roof, you're ruining all that hard work. And it can heavily impact on the car's economy.'

6) No drain = no pain
'As a rule, anything that puts a drain on the battery will put a drain on your economy - for example, air conditioning or lights ablaze. But worse still is a battery in poor condition with relatively little charge. If the alternator is busy working away trying to charge the battery, it places a drain on the engine which hits the economy.'

7) Timing is everything
'Driving in heavy stop-start traffic is going to hurt. So if you're a commuter and can possibly avoid the rush hours, you'll really notice the improvement in fuel consumption. Needless to say though, that's easier said than done!'

8) Open your eyes
'Looking ahead and anticipating obstacles is key to cutting your fuel bills. Find the path of least resistance and keep plenty of space around you. That way, you can dictate your own pace and always react calmly and in a measured fashion to changes ahead. Roundabouts and traffic light junctions are prime examples of where you should be aiming to maintain momentum. And when driving across country, try and maintain a steady, composed pace which eliminates the need for constant braking and acceleration.'

9) No need for speed
'The speed limits are there for everyone's safety, but those who flaunt them are not only endangering theirs and others' lives, they are consuming more fuel. Stick to the limits.'

10) The fuel rule
'Cheap, non-branded fuel may perform poorly, so try and search out a mainstream supermarket or fuel company before filling up. High performance ‘super-type' petrol and diesel fuels such as Shell V-Power can burn more efficiently and improve your engine's economy, but shop around for the lowest price first or you won't feel the benefit!'

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