Everyone wishes they could drive a more fuel-efficient car every day, but this isn’t the end-all when it comes to getting the most out of every drop. Any car can be fuel-efficient as long as you know how to maximize that full tank of gas each and every time.

The most obvious tip is to keep track of your fuel mileage. It’s often said that a car is frugal given how far it’ll go between fill-ups. But this is a poor indicator of efficiency. The easiest way to get a more accurate reading is via the “full tank method.” Simply fill up your car’s tank completely until the nozzle automatically stops. Zero your trip meter and then calculate how far you can go between fill-ups. If you traveled 100 kilometers and consumed 20 liters, you’ll know that you do 5km/L (100 divided by 20). Repeat this exercise so you can get a better average of your car’s efficiency. Modern cars come equipped with a trip computer; you can use this to your advantage.

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Next, is to choose the right type of fuel. Too many people debate the pros and cons of going for a more premium type of fuel versus the regular kind. Here’s a very simple tip: follow your owner’s manual. If your car says it needs 91 octane then there’s no need for you to go 95 or 98 octane. This is literally burning money. That said, if you run a high-performance car or an older car, running higher octane fuel is good practice since it makes your car run smoother.

Third, check your tire pressure and not just in a visual sense. Make it a part of your weekly routine to check your car’s tire pressure using a proper gauge and compare it to the recommended tire pressure indicated in your owner’s manual. An underinflated tire increases the rolling resistance of a tire and reduces efficiency. In addition, this can also make you more susceptible to punctures.

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For those into weekend outdoor activities, it’s good practice to ditch that roof rack during the weekday. It penalizes your car’s fuel efficiency in two ways. First, because of added weight, it reduces your car’s fuel efficiency. Second, it also increases your car’s drag. In some instances, removing the roof rack can make your car 15 percent more fuel efficient. And on the subject of weight, always remove unnecessary stuff from your car. You don’t need 10 umbrellas at any given time, right? Weight is the number one enemy of fuel efficiency, so ditch the things you don’t need.

Also, resist the temptation to modify your car. Adding three spoilers will not add downforce; it will just increase the drag. The same goes for most aftermarket rims, especially if you’re slapping on a set that’s two or three sizes larger than stock. If you must modify your car, go for those that will make your car lighter. It’s also worth noting that sticker tires, like high-performance ones, will give you better handling at the expense of fuel-efficiency. If you want a car that goes the distance, go for tires with low rolling resistance.

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Lastly, keep your car in good shape. It’s been emphasized countless of times that having a more fuel-efficient car starts with one that’s well-maintained. Have your car religiously serviced at the prescribed intervals. This varies from every 5,000 to every 10,000 kilometers. Always consult your owner’s manual to find out when you need to have your car serviced. It must be remembered that a car, whatever the brand is, is a machine. And a machine needs to be properly maintained for it to work properly.

While on the road, there are also some ways you can improve fuel efficiency.

First, plan your route. If you need to do errands, it would be great to plot it in such a way that avoids traffic and takes the shortest distance. If your errands take you to a central business district like the one here in BGC or Makati, it’s actually better for you to park your car and walk. Not only is this cheaper, but it’s good exercise. Applications such as Waze or the MMDA app can also help you plan your route.

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On the road, keep a light pressure on the gas pedal. If you’re gunning your car away from traffic lights, you’re wasting fuel. Ditto if you’re treating the expressway as a drag strip. Realistically, it’s good to be light-footed, especially if you’re just cruising along on the highway. Although the common thinking is to be as slow as possible, that’s not always the case. You want to keep your car’s engine revs as low as possible while allowing it to shift to the next available gear soonest. In addition, use your brakes as little as you can. You can do this by analyzing and predicting traffic up ahead. If you see the traffic lights ahead turning red in a matter of seconds, there’s no need for you to accelerate any further; just coast before tapping on the brakes for you to make a complete stop.

If you must coast, coast in gear and not in neutral. Cars nowadays shut off the fuel supply to the engine if you coast in gear. If you put it in neutral, the engine actually consumes some fuel to keep it running.

Next, air conditioning is a godsend invention that keeps us comfortable. But don’t keep on blasting the A/C on full as this can tax the engine. Choose a temperature that’s actually comfortable and keep it that way.

Finally, if you find yourself stuck in traffic for a long time, shut off the engine. Avoiding excess idling can save you some fuel.

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If you follow some of the tips mentioned instead of doing nothing special, you should expect to see an improvement somewhere between 10 to 15 percent. Doesn’t sound a lot? Well, let me put that into perspective. If you spend some P5,000 per month on fuel, a 10 percent saving equates to P500. Over a year, that’s P6,000 or another month’s worth of gasoline in your tank.

About The Author

Ulysses Ang is a multimedia motoring journalist who has a regular column in The Philippine Star's Motoring section and runs his own automotive blog, CarGuide.ph. He hopes to one day have a garage similar to his virtual one in Gran Turismo.