New year, new leaf

16 January, 2014

Now Christmas has come and gone, we’re approaching the saddest time of the year. Next week sees the meeting of all the downsides of Christmas. The New Year’s resolutions have already proven too hard to keep, you’ve definitely found it difficult to resist yet more alcohol and the credit card bills are on their way. We can’t do anything about the money spent enjoying the festive period (unless you make it a New Year’s resolution for next Christmas), but those New Year’s resolutions…

I decided to turn over a new leaf this year by actually make resolutions I can keep. Unsurprisingly it’s car related. I have a VW Passat and it’s going to be eight years old this autumn. It’s done a lot of mileage and it’s got more much more to give and it has never, ever let me down. I, on the other hand, have let my Passat down. Of course I have it serviced regularly, only use genuine VW parts, but it’s looking a little forlorn, like it’s seen better days. It’s the car equivalent of a donkey/cow/horse chained up on some western European wasteland with just traffic for company. In short it looks unloved; all it needs is a good old-fashioned wash and scrub-up; why is that so hard? When it was new it positively gleamed after it had been washed, but now the years of gritted roads, careless door openers (I know who you are!) and the odd collision with low level signage and bollards, have taken their toll. Same goes for the inside, as I have ferried my son and his friends to and from endless cricket, rugby and football matches – and cricket is the only game played in decent weather isn’t it? The gleam has definitely gone. So my first resolution is to make sure my car looks healthy. It will never regain its fresh faced looks, but it can still look cared for and it’s not hard to do either. At the top of my road is a hand car wash where, for a fiver, six men and sometimes women apply water, soap and huge amounts of elbow grease to make your car look clean and polished. For a tenner they vacuum, dust and polish the inside too. And they’re fast, sometimes so fast the car’s ready before I’ve finished my takeaway latte.

My resolution is to have my car cleaned inside and out one a month, and my Passat’s worth it. And, in true recycling spirit, I’m offsetting my £10 with my second resolution: to drive more slowly. Like a lot of people I know, when I’m going somewhere I just want to arrive as quickly as possible. Sometimes that’s because I should have left earlier but, for the most part, if there’s a speed limit I rarely drive slower than it. But one of my friends has been on a go-slow for years and has saved a small fortune in fuel costs. According to the Energy Saving Trust, driving more slowly can knock 25% off your fuel bills and driving smarter will save up to £350. So I think this resolution should become habit-forming. If you want to drive smarter, save money and a bit of the planet, read on:

Switch it off – if it is safe to do so, turn off your engine when stationary for more than a minute or two. Modern cars use virtually no extra fuel when they’re re-started without pressing the accelerator so you won’t waste lots of fuel turning the car back on.

Shift to a higher gear as soon as possible – driving at lower engine speeds reduces fuel consumption. Change up a gear between 2000 and 2500 revolutions per minute (rpm).

Drive smoothly – anticipate the road as far ahead as possible to avoid unnecessary braking and acceleration. Decelerate early when slowing down.

Slow down – avoid excessive speeds when possible. Driving at 85mph uses approximately 25% more fuel than 70mph.

Close your windows if travelling at 60mph or more – the aerodynamic drag on your car of an open window at speeds of 60mph or more adds to your fuel usage. Keep your windows closed at high speeds.

Here’s to positive resolutions! Have a great 2014 and happy motoring!