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Save, save $ave!

Pay attention as am shares some secrets to saving money on your car.

It really is crunch time now and we're all trying to save and scrimp. But look outside the window, and you can see one of your biggest financial drainer: your car. Love it as you may, but once you've purchased a car, you know that it is probably the second biggest financial commitment that you may have, after your home of course.

Apart from the monthly installments (unless your deep pockets can cover the cost in one go), there's maintenance, petrol, car washes, servicing – the list goes on, and if you're not smart about it, your money might go up in smoke, quite literally.

So what can you do to hold on to your beloved vehicle, yet maintain a certain level of frugality with it? In addition to regular maintenance, there are basically two main steps to get value for your money – learn to drive economically, and, understand how, when and where to pump your petrol.

Reverse park - You can save a small amount of fuel by reversing into a parking space. This means you'll have to do less manoeuvering when the engine is cold and at its least efficient.

Turn your car off - When you turn on a car, it uses a bit of gas. When the car is idling, it uses a fixed amount of gas over a period of time (especially with the AC on). If you foresee that you will not be moving for more than a minute, turn off the engine.

Remain neutral - Shift into neutral when you are not moving to reduce transmission strain and cool off the transmission.

Keep it smooth - Focus on keeping your driving smooth, with no heavy acceleration or braking, and make sure you're in the right gear. If you have cruise control, and there isn't a whole lot of traffic, you probably should use it (it will eliminate the need to accelerate).

Ride the slipstream - A car moving through the air causes the air to split around the car and turbulence behind the car (the slipstream). If you drive your car into another car's slipstream, both cars will save fuel (less turbulence). The following car saves the most. Instead of tailgating though, try to find a large truck (more turbulence and a longer slipstream tail) and slip behind.

Drive slower - Driving fast will increase the drag (turbulence) and increase your fuel consumption. Studies in Europe have shown that a driver in an average-size car travelling at 140 km/h on a highway will spend about USD 1.75 more on fuel every eight minutes than a driver travelling at 110 km/h.

Turn off your air conditioner (AC) - Maybe not in the summer, but when the weather is cool, try and sweat it out. The compressor for the AC loads the motor of the car more, reducing fuel economy. Park your car in the shade if you can, and turn off the AC five minutes before you reach your destination. If you exchange air-conditioning for open windows and a sunroof, this will compromise the car's aerodynamics, increasing fuel consumption, and possibly wipe out any fuel saving from switching off the air-conditioning. Opening your windows will increase the turbulence and eventually cost you fuel. If you can, use only the ventilation system of your car, save gas and can easily get you 10-20 per cent better mileage. So start braking earlier instead of slamming on the brakes at the last minute.

Easy does it - At a junction, accelerate slowly when the light turns green. The faster you accelerate the more gas you are going to consume. Conserve as much fuel as possible while you are going from a stop position into driving mode by accelerating steadily. You won't just save 20 per cent of fuel; you will be a safer driver as well.

Avoid heavy traffic and lots of traffic lights - The shortest route is not always the most fuel efficient if you have to stop a lot.

Reduce weight - Try to reduce the weight of your car by emptying out the trunk and removing heavy items that you don't need. Taking off a roof rack that isn't needed will improve aerodynamics and reduce fuel consumption.

Right pressure - Check your tyre pressures at least once a week. Research shows that 20 per cent under-inflation can increase your fuel consumption by 3 per cent, reducing tyre life by 30 per cent into the bargain.

To the doctors

Unnecessary expenses may come about because of ignorance, lack of knowledge or even laziness. If you neglect the maintenance of your vehicle, it may not only lead to huge car repair costs, but, God forbid, the hospital bills that may come with it as the car becomes a hazard. Thus, it is vital to ensure your car is properly maintained. It may have been mentioned time and again, but it's definitely worth mentioning once more.

The most important tasks of car maintenance are:

Regular fluids check - It's important to know when you have to top up your transmission fluid and engine coolant. If you find that the levels are too low, add enough fluid immediately, thus preventing engine collapse that can take your leg and your arm to repair.

Get regular oil changes - The oil in your car is the life of your engine, so if you don't change the oil often enough, it could ultimately cause engine problems. You should have the oil changed about every 4,000km for the best results.

Check the air in your tyres - If you don't have enough air in your tyres, it can cause them to wear down faster, and too much air can be a problem as well. Tyres often lose air in the winter due to the cold. Check the specs to find out how many pounds of air will be best for them.

Keep the car washed and waxed regularly - Maintain the body of your car as well. It is important that you keep the car washed and waxed on a regular basis to help keep the body clean, shiny, and, of course, free from corrosion.

Fuel pump secrets Early bird - Gasoline becomes denser in colder temperatures. Gas pumps are set to measure the volume of the fuel that you pump, and not the density. This means that if you fill up your gas tank in the cooler morning temperatures, or in the colder evening hours, you'll be getting a better deal.

Buzzing - A busy pump station means that its underground tanks are filled on a regular basis. Pump stations that are slow will have gas that has been sitting in underground tanks for longerperiods of time, leading to gas contamination. This contamination can mean that the gas you are purchasing is less powerful than fresh gas, and will decrease your fuel economy.

Turn it up - Once you've filled up, turn the nozzle of the hose a full 180 degrees. This will drain a bit more gas into your tank; in some cases, up to an entire half cup that would otherwise be a bonus to the next gas customer. That extra half cup that you get each time that you fill your gas tank can add up to a lot of extra gas at the end of the year that you would never have known about.

Leave it be - Avoid ‘topping off', because when you purchase just a bit of fuel at the gas station, the pump doesn't have enough time to really activate, resulting in short bursts of fuel that may short change you from the amount of gas that you are purchasing. The best time to replenish your gas tank is when you have half a tank or less left in your vehicle, or when you find a gas price that you just can't afford to miss.

Don't leave it dry - When your car is running on almost empty fuel, you are using more gas because your vehicle is running less efficiently as it tries to accelerate and decelerate in a normal fashion. Keep your gas level above the quarter tank mark.

Avoid replenished stations - When a pump station has its tanks filled, the particles at the bottom of the tank are stirred up. These particles can become mixed in with the gas that you are putting into your car, which can lead to efficiency problems. The particles can clog your fuel filter, causing your car to stall and start with some difficulty.

Swipe it – When possible, use a designated fuel credit card as you might be able to get some rebate back on your purchase. On an average, this can amount to as much as USD 75 to USD 300 a year.

Article by: Arabian Man

Posted: May Issue 2009


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