Published on Mon, 11/03/2008 by Canadian Petroleum Products Institute

Stretching your fuel dollar in an eco-friendly way

Saving money at the pump and protecting the environment are important considerations for Canadian drivers.
There are ways to achieve both, while keeping our roads safe, by following some tips from the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) as well as the European Petroleum Industry and the European Commission.
* Checking the oil level and getting regular tune-ups will reduce the likelihood of repairs, save gasoline and help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. When you take your vehicle in for service, have the brakes checked too. Brake callipers that drag results in decreased fuel economy. Also regularly change your PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) valve and filter according to your owner's manual and vehicle specifications. If they become plugged, it could lead to increased emissions and fuel use.
* Check the tire pressure every month when the tires are "cold" (when the vehicle has not been drive for more than two hours). Under-inflated tires can increase gas consumption by up to four per cent, according to the International Energy Agency.
* With manual transmission, shift gears gently but quickly to the higher gears where the engine works more efficiently and uses less fuel. With automatic transmission, use the overdrive gear at high speeds to lessen the engine's workload and in turn save gas and reduce engine wear. Setting the cruise control feature while driving on highways will also save fuel by keeping your speed constant.
* Always drive at posted speed limits. Cars are most fuel-efficient when operating between 60 to 70 kilometres per hour. When you increase your speed above 90 km/hour, the fuel efficiency decreases exponentially, wasting gas and increasing emissions.
* Aggressive driving, such as jackrabbit starts and hard braking, can increase fuel consumption by up to 40 per cent.
* Shut off and unplug all power-consuming accessories, such as phone chargers, air conditioning and stereos, before turning off the vehicle. This will decrease the engine load - and the amount of gas used - the next time you turn the ignition on.
* The heavier the car, the harder the engine has to work, consuming more fuel. So remove unnecessary items from inside the vehicle or trunk. An extra 45 kilograms can increase your fuel costs by two per cent, according to the CAA's "eco-driving" tips. As well, carrier (ski, bike, roof) ranks should be removed when not in use since they cause aerodynamic drag and that also increases fuel consumption. The European Commission estimated that reducing wind resistance (by closing the windows at higher speeds) and removing empty roof racks could lower fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 10 per cent.
* In the winter, your car engine only requires 30 seconds of idling to circulate oil. Or, if the windows are clear, you can drive off without rapidly accelerating for the first five kilometres or until the temperature gauge begins to rise. Idling for long periods of time wastes gas and does nothing to heat the engine. Note that engines that idle too often can suffer wear and stress from working below their ideal operating temperature, resulting in high maintenance costs down the road.
* When the temperature drops to -15ºC or less, use a block heater to warm the engine two hours before driving rather than let your vehicle idle. A block heater will keep your engine oil and coolant warm, and improve your winter fuel economy by as much as 10 per cent.
* Using the air conditioner while driving in the city in the summer can increase gas consumption by up to 20 per cent, says the CAA. Roll down the windows instead, and leave the air conditioner for highway travel when open windows can create an aerodynamic drag on the vehicle.
For more information, visit