How many of us loose sleep over bad mileage figures of your car?

Company claims impressive figures and we find ourselves disgracefully short of those luring numbers.
It is simple to blame the traffic conditions for the huge difference, but, some factors very much in our hands cou ld be the real culprit. Addressing or should I say being conscious of the ways in which we can enhance the efficiency of our vehicle can be a of great value.
As we will soon learn, that these small steps not only enhance the efficiency of your car but also contribute in a big way to better disciplined traffic and cleaner environment.

What we have tried to do is segregate the various pointers into two main categories. One, attempting to provide some insights into the way you can drive better to achieve better efficiency and the other, maintenance.

Drive in a way that helps you save:

Drive at the speed of the traffic:
Leave racing to the tracks! Make it a point to drive ONLY at the speed of the traffic.
This will automatically ensure that you do not  have to engage any unnecessary braking and are able to run the engine at more or less a constant reving. Even if there is acceleration, it is gradual and hence completely does away with emergency or hard breaking. You will notice that in the process, you become a more disciplined driver with lesser unnecessary overtakes and lane cuts.

It is pointless in engaging a higher gear or accelerating the car further when you are to stop at an approaching red light within a very short distance of a few meters.
Failure to practice anticipation can lead to unnecessary killing of momentum and thus energy. What a waste!
So as a rule avoid situations where heavy breaking is required.

Drive in the right gear and minimize gear shifts:
Driving in the highest gear guarantees the best mileage! This is one of the most popular myths. How I love busting them!
The above myth is not true under all conditions. In fact all that matters is that you are in the RIGHT gear all the time rather than the HIGHEST gear at all times.
It is important to drive in the right gear else requires more frequent gear shifts. Now, the judgment for being aware of the right gear for given driving conditions comes with experience. It is easier for drivers who have a tachometer in their instrument cluster.

So lets go through some broad guidelines to help you train yourself to assess gear shifts:
  • As you engage a gear and start to drive on, you will see that the engine revolutions on the increasing which is nothing but the rpm reading on your tachometer.
  • Beyond a point if you stay in the same gear, you will see that the tachometer reading keeps going up but there is no considerable increase in the speed of the car.
  • When you experience this, you are a bit past the point where you need to engage a higher gear. (For cars that do not have a tachometer, the judgment has to be made by the response against the throttle)
Also, sometimes there is tendency to engage into a higher gear prematurely. This is a typical tendency that stems from the belief that the higher the gear you drive in, you get the highest mileage. This is not true always!

Higher gears are meant for cruising and hence do not give you the kind of power you need at lower speeds to build the momentum. Engaging into a higher gear too soon strains the engine at times even leading to knocking or a slow response. If you experience that you have engaged into a higher gear and the immediate response/pick-up is extremely sluggish, you have moved the gear up too soon.

With practice, the timing of the gear shift will get almost subconscious. So when you get there, be prepared to discover the true potential of your engine and gear box.

Avoid clutch driving. Be conscious about it:
This is mainly observed in newer drivers. When you start off, you tend to take a while in getting used to the feel of the clutch. Especially at slower speeds or bumper to bumper traffic conditions new drivers are scared of their cars shutting down. They have not yet got the complete feel of the clutch and accelerator. So they tend to ride on the clutch. What this means is that they tend to keep the accelerator pressed and control the speed by pressing the clutch partially. This ensures that the car doesnt shut down at slower speeds. The above can be a course to a huge calamity leading to the replacement of the clutch plate itself. Short term damages include deterioration of the pick up and bad mileage. What happens here is that the clutch ceases to disengage completely and hence there is huge dissipation of power. Be conscious about it and teach yourself to NOT CLUTCH RIDE.
Either engage the clutch completely or not at all.

Do you really need the AC?
AC can affect your mileage by as much as 10%.
Do reassess whether you need the ac all the time and make sure you conserve whenever possible.

Bumper to bumper traffic ethics:
In bumper to bumper traffic, again keep the acceleration and gear shifts to the minimum.How often do we see people accelerating a lot and braking intensely when all they have to do is a few meters before they have to stop again. Worse, they engage a higher gear.
Reinforces the need for anticipation and avoiding wasteful acceleration.

No room for vain ego:
I did mention earlier about leaving racing to the tracks.People often engage into  quite wasteful ego exhibitions, unnecessary overtaking and speeding. Learn to seethe bigger picture and do not contribute to worsening of traffic. This leads to abuse of power and wastage of precious fuel.
Remember, most regulations enforce good habits, not only for the traffic but also for you and your car.

Maintenance, the most under rated SIP:

Maintain correct and uniform air pressure:
The air pressure for the tyres is prescribed by the car maker.This is often one of the most neglected maintenance routines.
If the pressure in the tyres is less than prescribed, it tales a toll on the pick up which in turn affects mileage.Imbalance in the air pressure leads to an undesirable drag which also takes its toll on the mileage. If you notice that your car's pick up is not up to the mark or your car experiences an uneven pull in one direction, please inspect the tyre pressure.
Remember - An optimum pressure maintained across all the tyres not only makes the drive more enjoyable but contributes to your saving on consumption.

Be attentive to any alignment/suspension related issues:
This is a forward on being attentive to an uneven drag or pull towards one side when when you drive.The first thing to be checked for this is the air pressure as discussed earlier. If we discover that air pressure is not quite an issue, the next suspect is the wheel alignment. If the wheel alignment has been disturbed, this leads to an uneven distribution of the weight of the car across the tyres which spoils the dynamics of the ride.
The car experiences a pull/drag in one direction which affects pick up, mileage and in the long run, uneven treadwear of the tyre.
This needs to be attended to immediately.

Replace spark plugs in time:
Spark plugs are responsible for the effective combustion of the fuel in petrol cars. As the car runs and miles get added on, carbon deposition occurs on the ignition points of the spark plugs.This affects the effective combustion of the fuel and  in turn affects the mileage. Spark plugs should be replaced after the car clocks about 20000 to 25000 kms.

Keep the car in working condition:
Use it or loose it! This is applicable to a car as well. When the car runs, the engine oil get armed up and gets circulated. This lubrication helps tremendously in keeping the parts in condition hence keeping the ride smooth. All the mechanical parts also need to be used to keep them in working condition.An engine that is well run in will always perform better and more efficiently.

Get a genuine PUC done. Its benefits are beyond environment alone:
PUC is usually looked at as a government regulation to keep the emissions in check.
If the emissions are not within the prescribed range, it not only means that your vehicle pollutes, but also that there is ineffective fuel consumption with straight impact on mileage. Many a times the PUC centres do not have the genuine equipment.
Make sure you get a proper PUC done and your car is tuned well to qualify for the applicable emission norms.

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