Improving fuel efficiency

Most drivers can significantly reduce the amount of fuel used by applying the following basic driving practices.

When buying a vehicle, consider fuel-efficient models. Generally, the smaller the engine, the less fuel it will use. When shopping for a new vehicle, look for its EnerGuide label. This identifies the vehicle fuel usage in terms of litres used for each 100 kilometres driven (litres/100 km), and estimated annual fuel cost.

Travelling at higher speeds increases fuel use. Every 10 km/hour above 90 km/hour burns about 10% more fuel.

Avoid quick acceleration. It is safer and more fuel-efficient to gradually increase your speed. As much as possible, maintain a steady speed. Rapid acceleration and changes in speed can increase fuel consumption by as much as 40%. Cruise control can help maintain a fuel-efficient steady speed on the highway.

Idling wastes fuel. Ten seconds of idling can consume more fuel than turning off your engine and re-starting it. If you are parking for more than 10 seconds, turn off your engine. For every 10 minutes of idling, the average vehicle uses about 1/3 of a litre of fuel. A vehicle with a larger engine can use up to 1/2 of a litre.

Idling your engine is not the best way to warm your vehicle in the winter. Idling warms the engine and possibly the interior of the vehicle, but it does not warm vehicle parts like the tires, steering and other moving parts. These parts of your vehicle are only warmed by driving. According to Natural Resources Canada, 1 minute of idling on a cold winter day is enough.

Use a block heater in the winter to warm the engine oil and make cold starts easier on your engine. Use a timer to switch the block heater on 2 hours before you plan to drive.

Proper use of a block heater can improve your vehicle's overall fuel economy by as much as 10%. Do not leave your block heater on overnight or your energy savings will disappear in higher electricity costs. Remote vehicle starters are handy on cold mornings, but do not start your vehicle too early.

A vehicle that is properly maintained will be more fuel efficient and safe. Have regular maintenance checks done by a qualified mechanic.

  • A poorly tuned engine can increase fuel consumption by up to 50%.
  • A clogged air filter can reduce fuel efficiency by 10%.
  • Under-inflated tires increase fuel consumption by about 5%, as well as increase tire wear and reduce traction.

To get maximum fuel economy on a vehicle with a manual transmission, shift through the lower gears smoothly and quickly. Build up speed in the higher gears. An automatic transmission shifts to a higher gear earlier if you reduce pressure on the gas pedal as you increase speed.

You can improve your fuel efficiency in summer by minimizing your use of air conditioning. Air conditioners used in stop and go traffic can increase fuel consumption by as much as 10% to 25%. At highway speeds, air conditioning increases fuel consumption by 3% to 4%. To stay cool at highway speeds, use your vehicle's flow through ventilation. When driving in the city, open a window.

Extra weight means using extra fuel. Heavy bags of sand and salt in the trunk will help winter driving traction, but should be removed when no longer needed.

Trip planning can save you time, money and fuel. Avoid traffic congested routes. Combine several errands into one longer trip and avoid rush hour traffic when possible.

Fuelling safety

Fuelling a vehicle should receive your full attention.

  • Do not smoke, light matches or use a lighter when fuelling your vehicle. Gasoline vapours mix with air, which contains oxygen. If you add an ignition source such as cigarettes or matches, a fire or explosion can occur.
  • Do not use a cellular phone while fuelling. Phones that light up when switched on or when they ring may have enough energy to provide a spark. The spark could ignite gasoline vapours.
  • Turn your vehicle ignition off before fuelling.
  • If you have a recreational vehicle (RV) or trailer, be sure that any pilot lights are turned off. These could provide a source of ignition.
  • Inform the station attendant if there is a fuel spill.
  • Do not let children handle the fuel nozzle. Do not expose your child to the potential risk of being splashed with gasoline or inhaling fumes.
  • Never prop the fuel nozzle handle open with an object. This greatly increases the chance of spills.
  • Stay by the nozzle handle during fuelling. Static electricity can be generated as you move around or get in and out of your vehicle. When you return to the pump and touch the nozzle handle, static electricity could be released. This could ignite the gasoline vapours and cause a fire or explosion.
  • Do not overfill your tank. Overflow and spills can affect the environment.
  • When filling extra containers, such as gas containers for your lawn mower or snow blower, remove them from your vehicle and place them on the ground. This will allow static electricity to discharge and keep spills out of your vehicle.