Friday 6th of January 2017
Filling up is a chore we all loathe, but it’s an essential expense of owning a car and it’s wise to do it in the most efficient way possible. The cost of fuel differs across the country meaning you can be savvy about how much you spend. There are handy apps out there that can tell you all the prices from your local garages and point you in the direction of the best one. By filling up close to home or work, you’re cutting down on fuel use but you could be paying a higher premium which works out costing more than driving a little out your way.
You can get the most out of your tank by using stop-start technology as leaving your vehicle idle for a minute actually burns more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it (by about 5 percent)! Similarly, habits such as high-speed takeoffs and driving up the rpm (revving) burns more fuel, so try making more gradual stops and starts. Nowadays most cars have the technology built-in that measures your real-time fuel consumption. Admittedly, not a lot of drivers take notice or understand what this is for but keeping an eye on it over time will tell you if something is wrong with your car. You should monitor the number of gallons each time you fill up as a drop in your vehicle’s fuel economy can be a sign of engine trouble.
Other things you can do to make sure you’re not using up fuel unnecessarily are keeping your tyres in good condition by making sure they’re aligned and balanced, topping up the air, and checking the pressure each week, especially before long journeys.
Keeping your car empty can actually help save money on fuel too. Not an empty tank, an empty trunk! Heavy items like pushchairs, childseats, toolboxes, suitcases, golf bags, shopping, and so on add extra deadweight to the car that make the vehicle heavier and therefore use more power to pull i.e. more fuel. Keep your car clear and only take what you need with you for each journey. You’ll be surprised at the difference you’ll feel!
The technology in cars is advancing faster than we can learn what it does. With each new release of a model, another amazing capability is announced and some super-fast, super-intuitive program in our car helps make a more comfortable experience and helps us to be a better driver. Now that the law is tightening around distractions on the road, it’s up to voice-recognition software to step in and take over. Cars with built-in Bluetooth allow your phone to connect and with this, you can focus on driving while your car’s computer does the texting, changing the track, adjusting the volume and navigating your course. All you have to do is speak to it.
One step further, many cars now can sense if you are trying to do things whilst driving and won’t allow it. For example, if you want to connect your phone to play some music, unless the car has the handbrake applied or has come to a complete stop it asks you to wait until stationary.
Built-in Satellite Navigation systems are huge now and have replaced traditional SatNav clip-on systems (TomTom sales figures 26.11.16) but police are seeing a rise in mobile phones (Google Maps) being used as guidance instead which sometimes require interaction and are often slow to load up, making it appear as though users are texting whilst driving.
But do smarter cars make smarter drivers? We think absolutely, yes. With new safety features looking out for us all the time (Lane-Keep Assist, Auto-Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control) NCAP ratings are the highest they’ve ever been in twenty years. Warning alarms sound when we are about to cause danger which in turn conditions us to pre-empt dangerous situations and curb poor driving habits.
All drivers know that preparation is the key when planning a long drive. Making sure your car has everything you will need for the journey, is essential when improving the performance and experience for the driver and their passengers. Keeping the car stocked up with things like de-icer, ice scrapers, warning triangle, first aid it, high-visability jacket, spare tyre, breathalyser and phone charger will definitely see you through an emergency situation.
When conditions are bad, don’t be a bad driver by not thoroughly preparing for the journey. Allow an extra ten minutes to clear your windscreen in cold conditions, clear the leaves or snow from your bonnet, don’t have anything obstructing yours or others view (that includes novelty items pinned to the windows) and always test your exterior lights before setting off.
SIDE NOTE: Bad Habit to Drop in 2017 – Using fog lights when it’s not foggy. Visibility should be lower than 100 metres before the need of fog lights. Otherwise, they’re just bright and annoying.
You may not know this but a lot of us have our wing-mirrors adjusted incorrectly. The correct angle should be further away from the car, showing more across the lane next to you rather than just behind you and your own vehicle’s body. You might think you’ve got your mirror setup perfected, but there’s actually a proper technique that ensures you eradicate that blind spot.
Keeping your car looking good is as much a part of driving as your habits on the road. Nobody likes looking at a filfthy car, let alone getting into one. So one thing you can do this month, to start your year out right is clean up your motor. If you can afford it, a monthly car wash will do wonders with all this rain we’ve been having. Smudged, dirty windscreens should be cleaned and alloys sparkling to really show off your favourite vehicle. This also makes it easier to spot any scratches or dints. Now is the time to go and get some T-cut and finally fill in those unfortunate marks you’ve been ignoring for ages.
Whilst you are tidying up the outside of your car, you should also remember to check your licence plate is screwed on fully and both illuminating bulbs are functional.
There’s plenty of repairs and replacements you can do yourself at home, once you’ve got the know-how. Try to save visits to your mechanic for the purely essential big jobs. You’ll save paying extra money for labour costs as well as the materials to fix your car. There’s a range of video tutorials on simple car repairs you can do at home such as replacing a windscreen wiper, changing a tyre or topping up oil.
Once the outside looks great, it’s time for the inside! Get the interior of your car back to how it first was by cleaning up all the litter (we’ve a handy guide, here.) and sorting all the mess. Simple ideas like a carrier bag to collect all the rubbish that can be easily taken out at the end of the week or a hook attached to the chair for hanging your clothes and coats. Most petrol stations have Do-It-Yourself vacuum cleaners for giving a quick run around on the floor and in the door sills. Pop up an brand new air-freshener and you won’t believe the difference it will make! Driving round in a clean and shiny car not only makes you look good, it also makes you take more car when driving and parking (you wouldn’t want to scuff those shiny alloys now, would you?)