10 Tips for saving fuel

Photo: istockphoto.com/Rafa Irusta

It's spring and that means gas prices are going to rise. Here are some green tips to reduce your gas consumption.

These handy suggestions come from our own Green Tips booklet as well as from 4Refuel, a fuel management organization specializing in onsite delivery, fuel logistics, automated fleet management and biodiesel solutions.

1. Start off slower
Being first to zoom ahead at the green light doesn't get you there any quicker. Countless studies by universities, highway authorities and engine manufacturers prove it. Jackrabbit starts save less than three minutes over 60 minutes of driving but end up using 40 percent more fuel and increase toxic emissions by 400 percent

2. Slow down
It's not just dangerous but speeding wastes fuel. Highway speeds over 100 km/h drastically impact fuel efficiency -- cars travelling at 120 km/h instead of 100 km/h use 20 percent more fuel to cover the same distance. Trucks travelling at 120 km/h instead of 100 km/h use 50 percent more fuel. Both emit 100 percent more carbon monoxide, 50 percent more hydrocarbons and 31 percent more nitrogen oxides.

3. Tune-up!
Be sure to provide your vehicles with frequent tune-ups. A well-maintained vehicle performs better on the road, decreases maintenance costs and improves fuel efficiency.

4. Smooth move
Changing the oil regularly is another double bonus for your car and the environment: when your engine is running in top condition, it is burning fuel most efficiently. The average recommendation for oil changes is every three months or 5,000 km. Ask the mechanic to see that your old engine oil gets recycled, and check the replacement oil: the best oils for fuel efficiency are labelled "Energy Conserving" and can reduce your fuel consumption by 3 percent. Consider using a bio-based transmission oil for your car. Read more about them in Getting your engine moving with bio-based oils.

5. Stop idling
Letting your engine idle for more than three minutes not a good idea. Idling quickly consumes fuel and can add 50 percent to fuel costs while shortening the effectiveness of your engine oil by 75 percent. And it's not doing anything for the longevity of your engine either. Idling runs your engine below peak temperature, which means that over time you're actually doing damage to it. There's also no need for that morning warm up since our cars are now electronically controlled. An engine actually warms up faster while driving.

6. Tire pressure
There's a lot more than the environment riding on your tires. For safety reasons alone, you should make a regular habit of checking your tire pressure but do so when tires are cold, not fresh from use. In addition or under-inflated tires increase fuel consumption and cause premature wear on the tires. Transport Canada studies show that 70 percent of the tires on the road are under-inflated. Are yours part of the statistics?

7. Lighten your load
Carrying excess weight places unnecessary strain on your vehicle's engine and greatly affects its fuel efficiency. A loaded roof rack can decrease your fuel efficiency by up to 15 percent on smaller cars and up to 5 percent on SUVs or trucks. Even driving with an empty rook rack wastes gas.

8. Cut back on your driving
Save gas by driving less. Combine several errands into a single trip, take a minute before you leave home to plan multiple errands and map out your route. Start using public transit as much as possible. Leave the car at home if you can get there by walking, cycling or taking the bus, train or metro.

9. Trade in the off-road vehicle
Sporty utility vehicles and trucks pollute over twice as much as the average new car. Do we really need that SUV on city streets, where the extra weight and friction caused by four-wheel-drive equipment guzzles up gas? SUVs use 30 percent more gas than other cars. So, opt for a lighter, two-wheel-drive vehicle -- they're easier to park anyway!

10. Buy a fuel-efficient vehicle
While the best choice by far for clean driving is a hybrid car, which runs on a combination of battery power and gasoline and uses far less gasoline. But there are also traditional vehicles with respectable fuel-efficiency ratings. A typical car produces roughly three times its weight in carbon-dioxide emissions every year, so a good general rule is the lighter your car, the better its fuel efficiency.