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How to make a litre of petrol go longer

By NS Sawaikar
June 17, 2008 12:03 IST
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The rising price of oil is one of the biggest stories in the world today; causing havoc with inflation figures as well as personal budgets. It's unlikely we will see prices below $100 per barrel soon and there is even talk of $200 in case of a major instability in the Middle East.

Inevitably this has led to hikes in fuel prices in India and may lead to more hikes in the future. So what is the average driver to do? Here are some simple tips for reducing your fuel costs and helping the environment in the bargain.

Maintaining your car

The first step is to remove all the junk that has no doubt accumulated in your car over the years. The heavier your car is, the more fuel it consumes. Even 50 kg of extra baggage can reduce your fuel economy by 2 per cent.

Maintaining your engine is also important. A bad engine could reduce your mileage by as much as 20 per cent. Check your spark plugs and make sure your air filters are clean. Change your engine oil regularly using the correct grade of oil.

Keeping your tyre pressure at the correct level is important too. If your air pressure is too low your tyres will generate more resistance meaning your car engine will have to work harder and use more fuel in the bargain.

Keeping the right air pressure will also ensure a smoother, safer ride and prolong the life of your tyres.

Improve your driving habits

Avoid driving too fast; instead stay at a moderate speed even when on the highway; for example driving at 90 km/h instead of 110 km/h will reduce fuel consumption by about 25 per cent.

It's also best to maintain a steady speed instead of sudden starts and stops. When you do need to accelerate do it in a gradual manner. This is also a safer method of driving and will create less wear and tear of your car.

Adjust your gears appropriately: driving at a lower gear than necessary will increase your fuel consumption. You should also avoid driving with your foot on the clutch since that also consumes fuel. Use the clutch only when you have to change gear.

When you approach a traffic signal slow down gradually and similarly when the light turns green you should accelerate gradually. Turning off your engine at a long traffic stop will also save fuel.

See if you can find ways of reducing the AC; for example it probably makes sense to switch the AC off when you are about to reach your destination. However when you are driving at a high speed, for example on a highway, it's probably better to keep the AC on rather than your windows open since the latter will seriously reduce your car's aerodynamic efficiency.

Driving less

While this may sound obvious there are a lot of ways you can probably figure out to reduce the amount of driving you do.

For example it makes sense to combine a series of small trips into one longer trip to reduce your fuel consumption. Or you might be able to find a few friends with whom you can take turns driving to the office.

Finally better trip planning may also help you reduce the length of your trips. Take help of new technology like Google Maps and GPS navigation which may prove useful. And don't forget the good old ways of using public transport or just walking to a nearby destination.


Fuel is getting more expensive and likely to stay that way for a long time. Fortunately there are a number of simple stepsĀ -- like a few stated aboveĀ -- to make that one litre of fuel go longer and to make sure your wallet isn't hurt too much.

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NS Sawaikar