Don’t drive in the rush hour
Getting stuck in a traffic jam is not only energy-zapping, it is also cash-zapping. It is a very expensive way of travelling. Every time you stop and start in traffic, your car needs first gear and a huge amount of fuel to get moving again. Second gear is not much better. The best solution is to not travel during the rush hour. You can also save some fuel by trying to understand what the traffic is doing in front of you, and travelling steadily at a slow speed, rather than accelerating and braking. In a busy city like Lagos, there are now some mobile traffic information apps and radio stations which update you of traffic in almost every area in the city. You could also call a friend who plies same route like you if they have some information about traffic on the route.
Make fewer trips
Did you know that when you drive a car that has been parked for a few hours, the engine is cold and it uses much more fuel for the first five miles or so? Ideally you should combine all your daily errands into one big trip. However, this may not be possible all the time, especially if you have to pop out during the day to take your kids from school, but you could try do shopping while bringing them from school rather than going to the store at a different time.
Close the windows and/or sunroof
It’s not so much of a problem when you’re driving in town, but when you’re out of town or on the expressway and moving more quickly, the shape of your car is very important. Car designers call it aerodynamics and make lots of effort to reduce the ‘drag’ and make the car as sleek as possible. Anything that makes wind noise as your car goes along is actually making your car more expensive to run. You can’t do much about the design of your car, but you can avoid making it worse by not leaving the windows and sunroof open. It’s better to use the air vents for most of the year, and the air-conditioning when it gets too hot.
Remove the roof rack or ski box
This is just like leaving the windows open, but worse. Even if the roof rack is empty, it increases drag and makes your car use more fuel, while a big ski box is like having another car strapped to your roof. The latest roof racks and ski boxes are quick and easy to fit and remove, so make the effort to stow them away when you’re not using them.
Don’t carry around unnecessary weight
Your car is just like your body; it needs more fuel to move around more weight. So, just as you wouldn’t wear a heavy rucksack unless you had to, don’t cart stuff around in the boot of your car unless you need it. Ironically, the heavier the item (the usual culprits are golf clubs and trolleys), the less likely you are to bother taking it out of the boot and the greater the effect it will have on your fuel consumption.
The perfect way to travel is at a constant speed (ideally around 50 miles per hour), and in the highest gear (five or six). So if you’re a patient driver, you’ll have lower fuel bills — it is as simple as that. It’s unrealistic to avoid overtaking, but there’s little point accelerating past a car to simply be in front of it and then finding yourself at the next set of traffic lights. Any instant gratification will appear on your fuel bill the next time you fill up.
Don’t push the accelerator down too far
This one always surprises people. It’s not just to do with what gear you’re in. You may be in a high gear and travelling at a sensible speed, but if you’re pushing the accelerator down a long way to avoid changing into a lower gear (into third from fourth, for example), then you’re actually using more fuel not less. Obviously, if your car has an automatic gearbox (you’ll know if it does), then it will probably do a better job than you of choosing which gear to be in, so it’s not a problem.
Turn the air conditioning off
It’s tempting to leave the AC on the whole year round. It stops the windows misting up in the winter and you don’t ever need to think about the temperature inside the car, but it uses quite a bit of fuel. Agreed, it’ll be miserly of you to be sweating when you have AC in your car, but when it’s not hot, it’s advisable to turn it off.
Stick to the speed limit
Although not all Nigerian highways have speed limit signs, there are still some which have. If you ignore the speed limit law, you could shave a bit of time off your journey by travelling above the speed limit, particularly on long trips. Even though you might arrive about 20 minutes early on a 200-mile trip by travelling at 80mph instead of 70mph, it’s also a false economy. While the car is running for 20 minutes less, it uses much more fuel when it is travelling. That 20 minutes could cost you a thousand naira plus in fuel.
Check your tyre pressures regularly
The lower the tyre pressure, the more fuel the car needs to move it down the road. It is recommendable that you take five minutes every fortnight to check the tyres. If you’re not sure what the pressure should be, you can normally find the figures near the lock inside the driver’s door.