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Improving Your Vehicle’s Fuel Economy 

By B. S. 

It’s a no-brainer that the best way to save money on gas is to drive a fuel-efficient car. A vehicle that  gets 30 miles per gallon (MPG) will cost approximately 26,200 baht less to fuel each year than one that  gets just 20 MPG. Over a period of five years, that’s a savings of around 130,000 baht! For most,  however, it’s not practical to run out and replace our car with a new one that gets better mileage.  Therefore, the next best thing that anyone can do to reduce the amount of fuel our vehicle consumes is  to drastically change our motoring habits. 

Vehicle Maintenance 

A car in poor running condition uses more gas than one that is properly maintained. Consult the owner’s  manual and perform the vehicle’s routine maintenance on schedule or early. Regular tune-ups and oil  changes ensure the best fuel economy. Statistics show that a dirty air filter can reduce gas mileage by up  to 20 per cent while spark plugs that misfire or are in poor condition can reduce the same by around 12  per cent. Also, have the suspension and chassis parts examined at regular intervals to check for  misalignment. Bent wheels and axles, worn shocks and broken springs, besides being unsafe, create  engine drag which increases fuel consumption. 

Gas Saving Additives 

Studies made by consumer protection agencies have proven that almost all gas saving additives do  absolutely nothing to improve your gas mileage. The same agencies also suggest that you be wary of  any gas-saving product that has been found to work. They basically advise you to save your money, as  the benefits provided by these types of products are minimal at best. 

Tyre Inflation 

Keep all four tyres inflated to their maximum limit. Under--inflated tyres, besides being dangerous, can lower your fuel economy by 25 per cent. Over--inflated tyres are equally inefficient. Periodically, the wheels need to be aligned and each tyre also needs to be balanced and checked to see if they are “out-of-round”. When purchasing new tyres, remember that radial designs are considered to be more fuel efficient and that larger diameter rear tyres will help boost fuel economy. 

At the Pump 

Scour your neighborhood for the petrol station with the lowest price. However, if you have to travel more than a kilometer or two for 38 litres or less of cheap gas, it’s not really worth it unless you’re purchasing significant amount of gas. Try to purchase your fuel during the coolest part of the day, i.e. early morning and late evening. It’s a proven fact that when gasoline is cooler, its volume is denser. When it’s purchased in that state, you actually get a bit more fuel for your baht. Check your owner’s manual and always use the proper octane level. Using the wrong type of gas will impede your car’s 
performance and reduce its fuel efficiency. Also, be careful of the type and brand of petrol you put into your vehicle. Better quality brands often provide better gas mileage. Trust the gas pump’s automatic shut-off feature and ensure that your gas cap is seated properly and tightly closed. If the gas tank is overfilled or your gas cap is loose, the fuel can slosh out of the tank while driving and vaporize into the atmosphere when the vehicle is parked. According to statistics, hundreds of millions of litres of fuel are wasted each year by these careless habits.

Lose Weight 

Remove the junk in the trunk/boot that you don’t need. The ice chest, golf clubs and that box of tools you’re too lazy to take out must all go. All that extra weight will reduce mileage, especially on inclines. As a rule of thumb, for each additional 113 kilograms you’re hauling around, your vehicle will lose about one MPG. By the same token, remove anything external that might cause air-drag. That means getting rid of luggage racks, bike racks, fog lights and the like if you’re not using them. About half of your vehicles energy is expended overcoming air resistance. The other half is expended by acceleration. Reducing weight and drag lowers the engines workload and will thus improve fuel economy. Sunroofs and rough surfaces like vinyl tops will also disrupt the vehicles airflow and its gas mileage. 

Drive Less 

Try to combine all of your shopping and errands into one long trip instead of multiple short trips. Make a list of the things you need and where you’re getting them from so you won’t forget something and have to go back. If you can, schedule these trips at a time when traffic is at its lightest. If you’re not going far, you should consider walking, riding a bike or hopping on a baht bus instead of driving. 

Driving Habits 

Experts all agree that the best way to improve fuel economy when driving is to accelerate slowly and to brake over a longer distance. Short of buying an electric car, this is the single most effective thing you can do to improve your gas mileage. Studies show that every eight kilometers per hour (km/h) you drive over 96 km/h is the equivalent to paying an additional 1.75 baht per litre of gas. Never exceed the legal speed limits, which are 80 to 90 km/h in the city and 120 km/h on the highway. Travelling at a maximum speed of 80 km/h will give you up to 21 per cent better mileage when compared to 120 km/h. Avoid rough roads if at all possible, as driving on dirt and gravel roads will increase your gas mileage by about 30 per cent. Turn your engine off if it will be idling for more than thirty seconds. It’s true, that restarting the engine does use a burst of fuel, but not as much as an engine idling over a prolonged period of time. It’s common knowledge that driving with the air conditioner (A/C) on uses more gas, right? Well that maxim is both right and wrong. Yes, driving with the A/C on will reduce your fuel economy by 10 per cent. It’s also true that driving with the A/C turned off with the windows rolled down instead will also reduce your fuel economy by 10 per cent because of the drag created by the open windows. Since both methods burn up about 1 MPG, go ahead and drive with the A/C on because studies have found that it’s both safer and more comfortable than driving with the windows down. 

Computing MPG 

Write down the number shown on the odometer when you fill up the tank. Next time, record the odometer’s new reading as well as the amount of gas it took to fill the tank to the same level. Then subtract the old odometer reading from the new one and divide that sum into the amount of gas used since you last filled up. The final figure will be your MPG. If you heed most, if not all of the following suggestions, it’s possible to increase your MPG by as much as 15 per cent.