Does cruising downhill in neutral save petrol? 5 Common fuel-saving myths busted by an expert

CASH trapped motorists were faced with another fuel increase of 67c a litre last week while the price of diesel rose by 44c a litre.

Vishal Premlall, director of SAPRA, the South African Petroleum Retail Association, says the primary reason for this increase can be attributed to the weakening rand against the Dollar and the consequent price of crude.

He also cautioned that if the price of oil continues with its upward trend, there could be a further increase in the coming months.

Premlall was clear to clarify any misconceptions that the increases could be attributable to wages. He said the wage portion, which is an annual adjustment that gets done once a year in September, accounted for only 4.6 cpl.

He cautioned motorists who are feeling the pinch to try and plan their trips more carefully and take advantage of lift clubs. “Unfortunately the knock on effect will also probably impact on taxi fares which are expected to increase by R1 and R5 per journey,” says Premlall.


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“Fuel efficiency is a big consideration these days. Fuel is not cheap and many people spend a larger portion of their salaries each month on fuel to commute,” he says.

He believes that the most fuel-efficient engines in the current market are diesel. “Diesel engine technology has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past decade and most certainly in the last five years, proving that this technology is becoming the one of choice. European countries are, by far, at the forefront of diesel powered use and the rapid expansion will see diesel powered passenger vehicles become the vehicle of choice in the near future probably surpassing all other forms of power.”

Premlall also put to bed some fuel saving myths:

Gearing into Neutral at stops

This idea may have been relevant when engines used carburettors but today’s cars have computerised fuel-injection systems. By constantly shifting in and out of neutral the only thing you may accomplish is premature wear on your gear box.

A full tank is more fuel efficient

The idea that a tank more full than empty will prevent fuel evaporation inside the tank is incorrect. Fuel systems in modern cars are designed with vapour recovery systems so no evaporation is possible. Some vehicles with pressurised fuel systems even display a ‘check engine’ light if the petrol cap is loose, missing or not properly sealed.

A dirty air filter leads to lower mileage

The engines in older vehicles pulled air straight through the air filter into the carburettor, so a clogged filter could affect fuel efficiency to some degree. However today’s advanced engines have a computerised engine control module (ECM) to regulate the air-to-fuel ratio. Air goes through the filter and then through a mass airflow sensor that lets the ECM gauge the airflow and adjust the fuel accordingly; less airflow means less fuel is sent to the engine.


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Filling up when it’s cooler saves me money

Filling stations’ petrol is almost always pumped from storage tanks underground that are naturally insulated from large temperature swings so no truth in this theory.

Cruising downhill in Neutral saves petrol

This is one of the biggest myths thrown around. The truth is that when coasting in Neutral, the engine is idling, consuming just as much petrol as when it’s idling at a traffic light or warming up in your driveway.



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