As the fuel price see-saw continues (and we see no reason for it to find lasting equilibrium), consumers are asking themselves, “what can we do about our motoring costs?”
Driving smart is one answer and limiting unnecessary trips, car-pooling then taking into consideration that sitting in morning rush hour is far more fuel-intensive than sitting at 100 km/h on the open road are some options. Furthermore, consideration can be given to use of the air conditioner – for the record, the additional air resistance caused by open windows doesn’t offset the increase in mechanical drag caused by artificially-cooled air. In other words, rather keep the windows closed.
But most of all, keeping a vehicle properly serviced and tuned is the best way to maximise efficiency – whether this be the engine, the gearbox or anything else which can generate mechanical drag.
According to Shaldon Botes, Senior Application Engineer at Liqui Moly South Africa, details such as the grade and quality of gearbox oil matters: “Modern drivetrains are complex engineering mechanisms which require specific friction characteristics to which workshops and DIY enthusiast should pay careful attention. Modern high performance, low viscosity oils are now quite commonplace and not only will an incorrect oil affect consumption and efficiency but can compromise gearshift quality too.”
Components work better when they reach their operating temperature, but oils need to maintain the correct viscosity (thickness) and therefore lubricating properties in a process that can go from below freezing to 120 degrees Celsius – or more – in minutes.
Even components like wheel bearings and CV joints need to be greased correctly (in terms of the lubricant’s suitability for an application) if they are to provide an ideal combination of minimal drag and maximum protection across a broad temperature range.
When it comes to the powerplant, there are plenty of products that make claims about increasing the output. But one of the best ways towards improved economy is an engine "fine-tuned” with the likes of a Unichip. In summary, the Unichip is a piggyback supercomputer that can alter information coming from the original engine control unit and allow signals for fuel and ignition to be altered to improve the engine’s efficiency.
The signals are “corrected” at multiple rpm and load points thereby remapping the engine, and this means you can get improved economy and more power - invariably along with more responsive driving characteristics. The two are not mutually exclusive and in like-for-like driving (for example, a steady-state cruise) consumption will decrease even if power has been increased.
Success in motorsport is about paying attention to detail, because each one adds up until – lo and behold – you might have found a tenth or two per lap. At Zwartkops, in a one-make series, that can be a very useful advantage. On the road, improving consumption by even half-a-litre per 100 km is an equally useful advantage.