Last updated on 8 December, 2022
Fuel costs, for the high majority of travellers, is our biggest travel expense, and this was true before the recent price hikes. Unquestionably, the vast distances often driven in Australia add to the amount spent on fuel travelling this country. Besides, there are simple ways to improve the fuel efficiency of cars towing a caravan that are easy to implement and do not need additional equipment or add-ons.
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7 Simple Ways to Improve Fuel Efficiency of Cars Towing a Caravan
1. Put the Cart Before the Horse
What I mean by ‘put the cart before the horse’ is, if you are at the stage of buying your set up, make your mind up on your caravan first. Then after selecting your caravan buy a tow vehicle with the capacity to tow it. A vehicle towing a load too heavy will work hard, use more fuel and is unsafe.
2. Lighten Your Load
Obviously, the heavier a load, the more an engine has to work to move or pull it. According to this article shared by the ANU, for every extra 45 kilograms, fuel use increases by 1 – 2%, which does not sound like much except when you add up how many ‘extra 45 kilograms’ your rig has.
Therefore, regularly reassessing your vehicle and caravan loads is essential for improve fuel efficiency of cars towing a caravan.
Some easy ways to lighten your load are:
- Routinely get rid of items you do not use.
- Travel with your water tanks (fresh, grey and black) empty whenever possible.
- Unhitch your caravan as much as reasonably possible.
3. Check Tyre Pressures
Driving with your tow vehicle and caravan tyres at the correct tyre pressure will mean your car will be more fuel efficient. It will also reduce wear and tear on the tyres, saving you more money.
The advice is to adjust tyre pressures when the tyres are cold and follow the manufactures recommendations for pressure levels.
Daryl and I have a tyre pressure gauge and air compressor in our set up. Used fairly regularly for changing road conditions, ensuring our tyre pressures are correct more often than not, they are some of our most used gear.
4. Service Your Vehicle
It is a fact that well maintained and serviced vehicles run more efficiently and use less fuel. Regularly cleaning and replacing your car’s filters, spark plugs, oil, fluids and hoses are basic maintenance tasks you can do to keep your car running at its best.
Daryl does ours every 10000 kilometres. Sometimes more often if we have travelled dirt roads.
5. Use a Fuel App
Fuel prices vary considerably between petrol stations near each other or along a route between destinations. It pays to use a fuel app to check out prices rather than pulling into the first fuel stop you see.
For example, when we did the Nullarbor Crossing, there was a 50c per litre difference between two fuel stations only 50 kilometres from each other.
6. Slow Acceleration and Less Speed
Rapid acceleration reportedly lowers fuel mileage by 15 – 30% driving on highways and 10 – 40% in traffic. So a simple way to improve the fuel efficiency of cars towing a caravan is to accelerate gently and smoothly, taking your time getting to your desired speed.
Many of Australia’s highways have a speed limit of 110 kilometres per hour, but if you drive slower at 90 kilometres per hour on average, your car will use 25% less fuel. 25% difference in fuel consumption is a big difference just for taking slightly longer to reach your destination.
Of course, you do not want to be a nuisance on the road and unnecessarily hold up other vehicles, so be aware of what is happening around you before driving well below the speed limit. Often though, on Australia’s highways, you will not see another vehicle or there are plenty of safe opportunities for them to pass you.
The final recommendation when highway driving is to use cruise control if your car has it. Constantly, acceleration and de-acceleration consume a lot of fuel and cruise control eliminates this including when towing a caravan.
The message, in a nutshell, is to drive conservatively and save money at the bowser.
7. Headwinds and Tailwinds
If you have ever driven into a headwind, you will know that your car works incredibly hard to move through it. Physically, it is noticeable that more acceleration is needed and it takes longer to get up to speed. Therefore, it is obvious your car will be using more fuel.
How much more fuel seems to vary from 10% to double. Your speed and the strength of the headwind are two main variables that determine how much more fuel your car will consume. And I am pretty confident, although admittedly not an expert, towing a caravan will also have a negative impact.
So, it is about planning and if you have the luxury of time to avoid headwinds or, better still, pick up a tailwind that will help improve your fuel consumption, then do so.
It only takes a bit of effort and awareness to improve the fuel efficiency of cars towing a caravan. The money saved can go towards other travel expenses.