Driving 101: Being Fuel-Efficient Driver

If you haven’t noticed yet, prices of crude oil has been giving us a hard time! Just recently, it reaches a record high. It really has become imperative to alter one’s motoring habits to squeeze more mileage from every liter of fuel. If you ask me, just try to drive a more fuel-efficient vehicle, it’s the easiest of course, well, expensive at the same time. If you find yourself so digging so deep in the pocket then come out empty, probably the next best thing to do is to drive in a more fuel-efficient manner. How it is being done is what this article is all about.

Meet Pocholo Ramirez, claimed to be the living legend of Philippine motorsports. If there’s someone from whom we can learn how to drive a more fuel-efficient manner, that would be him. He happen to made the 1,000+ kilometer drive from Ilocos Norte to Sorsogon on a single tank of fuel (being advertized for an oil company TV commercial), and winning a fuel efficiency contest earlier on sponsored by a certain car manufacturer. Driving from San Pedro, Laguna to Lipa City, Batangas, Ramirez was pitted against other motoring journalists in that contest. They were all driving identical 1.6-liter cars fitted with four-speed automatic transmissions. Ramirez and his teammates averaged 49 kilometers per liter being shown in the tabulated results at the finish line, winning them the competition.

Ramirez cited some of his techniques to minimize your visit at your favorite gas station:

Use the proper gear

The higher the gear, the more efficient it is, that’s the rule of thumb. However, this doesn’t mean that while doing 45 kilometers per hour (kph), you should be hitting your fifth gear as this will just unnecessarily burden the engine big time. The engine will not develop enough torque as the revolutions per minute (RPM) will drop too low.

When using a manual transmission, know the proper speed at which to do the gear changing is the key. Checking the owner’s manual for the recommended speeds at which to shift from gear to gear is the best way to know everything about this. Yes car manufacturers actually quote exact figures for this.

Cars are being programmed to select the most efficient gear during moderate acceleration for automatic transmissions. The transmission would delay upshifts during heavy acceleration. In actuality, it’s safe to say that it’s not a child’s play to get the best mileage out of an automatic.

Get to the top gear as fast as possible

Conversely, deliberate and gradual acceleration is the key to efficiency as it is generally accepted that jackrabbit starts are supposed to be bad for fuel consumption. Though, Ramirez’s approach is quite the opposite during the competition. He quickly worked his way to top gear by accelerating very briskly because according to him, staying too long in the lower gears will waste a lot of his fuel. That action weren’t exactly jackrabbit starts, but they were closer to them than expected.

It isn’t that easy to tell what gear one is in with an automatic once one has hit his or her stride unless his or her instrument cluster has a gear indicator. Ramirez kept track of the gear he was in by keeping the transmission in Drive, and counting the gear changes as indicated either by drop in RPM or the almost imperceptible weight transfer of the car from rear to front following each upshift.

When the transmission took too long to upshift, such as when the car was scaling uphill stretches, Ramirez simply applied even more gas, and then abruptly eased off the pedal. After such a maneuver, automatic transmissions are programmed to upshift, and Ramirez exploited that to the hilt.

Find the “Sweet Spot” and stay on it

Consider this: A car’s Low Fuel warning lamp start flashing while cruising on a long, empty stretch of road – this means it is probably down to its last five to ten liters of fuel – and the nearest gas station is probably a couple of hundred of miles away. Do you ask yourself at what speed should you be driving your car? The best answer should be the upshift point to top gear.

When it comes to contest cars, a bit lower at about 68 kph will be the sweet spot. Ramirez maintained that speed as much as possible once he had counted three upshifts and had reached fourth.

Conserve your momentum

Avoiding braking or slowing down whenever possible and keeping the speed constant is the simplest meaning of conserving your momentum. Making the appropriate adjustments after you look way ahead for road conditions that might require you to slow down, conserving momentum needs a great training to accomplish all that. To make it simple for you, just remember that the more you hit the brake the more momentum you’ll lose, and preferably the more fuel you’ll waste.

Minimize the air conditioner load

The car’s aircon uses up so much of the engine’s power – and the fuel. There were ways to help reduce the burden on the aircon:

a. To keep out the heat from the sun, install good window tints
b. Since the dashboard absorbs so much heat, use a reflective windshield visor when parking under the sun.

Remember that drag is a drag

By definition, aerodynamic drag is the resistance of air to the forward movement of the car. To minimize drag, and make their cars slice through the wind as efficiently as possible, Car manufacturers invest huge amounts of money on wind tunnel testing. By installing great body kits, rear wings, spoilers, auxiliary fender mirrors, bull bars and oversized fog lamps are some of the sure fire ways to disrupt the smooth flow of air around the vehicle. Besides, in everyday driving, most of these alterations and upgrades serve no real purpose. So before giving in to the need for speed, you should think about this: As the vehicle speed increases, the power – and fuel – needed to overcome the aerodynamic drag increases exponentially!

Try to keep your tires inflated properly

You might ask what the recommended tire pressure is. It all might be printed on the driver’s door or doorjamb, the glove compartment or of course, the owner’s manual. It is necessary to check the tires every two weeks and before any long trips since ordinary tires lose air over time. Your engine will work much harder and will burn more fuel because underinflated tires create more friction with the road. Moreover, underinflated tires wear out faster and are more susceptible to punctures.

Whenever we’re behind the wheel, we should consider consuming our fuel efficiently. You don’t have to be a racecar driver, though it’s really fun to imagine sometimes, to employ these fuel-saving techniques.

Remember that all it takes are PRACTICE, DISCIPLINE and A RESTRAINED RIGHT FOOT.


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