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8 tips to save fuel while towing a caravan on- and off-road

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With fuel prices on the rise monthly, driving with fuel efficiency in mind is more important these days. Whether you’re driving on- or off-road, there are things you can do to reduce your fuel consumption even more and save a few rands.

This is particularly relevant as South African motorists prepare to head out for their December holidays. With the AA confirming that petrol prices will increase by between 23 cents and 33 cents a litre this month, these eight tips could result in tangible savings:

Service is Serious 

Make sure you keep your vehicle regularly serviced by taking it to any Ford dealer nationwide.

Important service parts include items like fluids, lights, wipers, wheels and tyres, belts and brakes. If these are not in good condition, they might be making your vehicle work harder and use more fuel. For newer Fords, set up the FordPass App on your smartphone and get notifications when your vehicle requires attention.

Check your tyres

Under-inflated or worn tyres can increase their rolling resistance which means your vehicle will be working harder to travel at a given speed. And that means it’ll suck down more fuel. Choose replacement tyres carefully, as non-standard aftermarket tyres can drastically degrade the fuel economy of your vehicle.

Check your tyre pressure regularly and make sure they are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommendation (this will usually be on a placard inside a door sill).

 

“Under-inflated tyres will not only cause more drag and increase your fuel consumption, but they’ll also cause your tyres to wear out quicker and impact vehicle handling,” says Joe Percy, fuel economy and performance attribute engineer, Ford Australia.

Weight is your enemy

This is one that can be hard for 4WD owners to side-step. Install a bull bar, driving lights, a UHF antenna, roof racks and an extra spare wheel and the weight begins to add up. What you want to try and do is remove anything you’re not using, so, things like emptying the gear out of drawers in the back of your 4WD, or the 12V fridge you might have stored in the boot.

Be conscious of changing the aerodynamics of your vehicle

While modifying your vehicle with some aftermarket accessories can improve the vehicle aerodynamics, most will result in a degradation which will cause the vehicle to work harder and increase fuel consumption – especially for those that do a lot of highway driving.

And the same goes for any bulky items you might be carrying in the tray or on the roof.  You shouldn’t be carrying gear on the roof of your 4WD that you don’t need there and then. The moral to this story is, don’t worry about driving around looking like you’re heading into the Kruger National Park if you’re just doing the school run.

Drive Sensibly

Aggressive acceleration and braking can dramatically increase your fuel consumption. Maintain good observation of the road and traffic around you and try to react to changes early so that you can accelerate slower, coast early and brake gently.

Don’t ever shift into Neutral when driving down a hill thinking you’ll save fuel, this is a myth and it’s also very dangerous.

Always use cruise control when you can, or adaptive cruise control if your Ford is equipped with it. Using cruise control allows the vehicle to take control of the accelerator pedal, brakes and transmission and will operate as smoothly and gently as the traffic allows – delivering more fuel economy and a smooth drive.

“Essentially, you want to be in the highest gear possible pulling the least number of revs necessary to keep you moving comfortably. The best way to drive with economy and comfort in mind is to make use of cruise control – it’s one of your vehicle’s key fuel saving strategies,” said Matthew Roberts, fuel economy and performance attribute engineer.

Time to Tow

When it comes to towing a trailer, you’re going to use more fuel than when you’re just driving around town or on the highway. But there are still things you can do to maximise fuel efficiency, like keeping your speed down. Travelling 10-15km/h less than the speed limit can help save fuel, and it will mean you’ll spend less time hard braking and hard accelerating.

Keep your trailer or caravan well maintained; low tyre pressure, worn tyres or wheel bearings can make your vehicle work harder when towing. If possible, fill up the water tank once you arrive at camp – reducing that weight whilst towing will help save on fuel. And don’t forget to close windows and air vents to maximise the aerodynamics of what you are towing.

“Towing a trailer or caravan is going to see you use more fuel but by keeping your speed down and driving smoothly, and ensuring your trailer is properly maintained you’ll maximise your vehicle’s fuel efficiency,” said Roberts.

Hot weather tips

Hotter weather will have you reaching for the air-conditioning but switching on your vehicle’s air-con places a load on the engine (it must work harder) which will cause it to use more fuel. Comfort is usually more important than saving a couple of rands when the temperature rises, though.

When you’re parking in hot weather, try and keep your vehicle in the shade as this will help the cabin stay cooler for longer which means your air-conditioning won’t have to work as hard to cool the car. If you can’t find a shady spot to park, then get a good quality sunshade to help keep the cabin cool.

Cold Weather Tips

Being able to leave your car parked in a garage overnight in cold weather will give you a head start when it comes to warming it up. And don’t think switching on your vehicle with the heater on and letting it idle for a few minutes is a good idea either, you’ll burn more fuel doing this. Your vehicle’s engine is designed to be driven from start-up and will warm up quicker when it’s being driven, improving the heater’s performance, and helping with fuel consumption.

How has the currently petrol prices been affecting your vehicle and towing? How are you feeling about the upcoming rise in petrol prices this month? Let us know in the comments section below.

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