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Understanding fuel consumption

At a time when the country is grappling with rising fuel costs, it is hard to imagine that motorists are not asking themselves some hard questions. For instance, how much does your vehicle consume? How can you control that?

To start with, every vehicle comes with a manufacturer’s rating for fuel consumption. Some vehicles come loaded with powerful engines that need lots of fuel to run while others are fairly standard. Your vehicle also consumes fuel based on where and how you are driving e.g. if you are driving at 50kph on a highway, you consume less than you would in hours of traffic.

A quick way to find out is to wait until your reserve light comes on then fill the tank to full level and record quantity of litres fuelled. Proceed to record initial odometer reading (OR1) and the last odometer reading (OR2) when the reserve light comes on again. OR2 – OR1 /Litres = Fuel/km. Go to the internet and research your vehicle Make and Model e.g. Ford Everest 2010 fuel consumption. Compare your rate with the manufacturer’s rate.

Seven ways to reduce fuel consumption

  1. Understand your fuel consumption –If you are not comfortable with your vehicle’s fuel consumption, you may what to review your driving habits and activities. Did you travel upcountry? Do you leave late every morning and join heavy traffic on your way to work? Have you skipped service? Knowing these things can explains the consumption and guides you on what you need to change.

  2. Service your vehicle – Prevention is better than cure. Get your filters and engine oil changed. Get your fuel pump checked and ensure that you fuel in stations you trust. Having a well serviced vehicle means that the systems are working as they should including the fuel system.

  3. Watch the RPM – Revolutions per minute (RPM) is a measure of how ‘hard’ your engine is working. If the RPM is very high – beyond 2,500 rpm for most vehicles, the engine consumes more. Watch out for roads with steep inclines and excessive overtaking. The goal is to keep your RPMs on the lower side as much as possible.

  4. Take your time – If your vehicle uses diesel, allow sufficient warm-up after ignition before driving. This ensures maximum efficiency of fuel consumption of your engine. You can find helpful tips on the internet on how to optimize fuel specifically for your vehicle make and model.

  5. Be steady – A steady speed ensures even consumption of fuel. Smooth and steady acceleration and deceleration also prevent sharp spikes in fuel consumption.

  6. Cheap is expensive – Do not get tempted to buy more ‘affordable’ fuel. As with all other things, cheap is expensive. Adulterated fuel can destroy your entire fuel system and ground your vehicle to a screeching halt.

  7. Pool – If you are convinced that your current fuel expenses are higher that you can afford, find someone to car pool with. This is common in Kenya between people who own cars and those who don’t, but it works just as well if car owners take turns to share a ride.


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