Drivers risk £1,000 fine and vehicle damage when trying to save fuel – ‘misconception’

Martin Lewis provides advice on cutting fuel costs

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A new survey has found 45 percent of drivers admit to coasting – where a motorist drives with their foot pressed down on the clutch or the gearstick in neutral in an attempt to save petrol. But new warnings have been given about the risks that drivers face, not only with a £1,000 fine, but also that coasting does little to conserve fuel.

Rule 122 of the Highway Code states that coasting is a term describing a vehicle travelling in neutral or with the clutch pressed down.

It warns that this can reduce driver control because engine braking is eliminated, meaning it may be more difficult to select the appropriate gear when needed.

It states that when coasting, the speed of the vehicle when driving downhill will increase quickly.

Steering response will also be affected, particularly on bends and corners.

John Wilmot, chief executive at the UK’s biggest car lease comparison site, LeaseLoco, explains the risks that drivers face when trying to save fuel, which has been described as a “misconception”.

He said: “Coasting is no longer beneficial to energy efficiency due to the fuel system in the majority of modern cars.

“When we drive downhill in gear our engine ECU detects that the accelerator isn’t engaged and cuts fuel from going into the fuel injectors.

“We use no fuel or very little when driving downhill in gear.

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“However, when we drive downhill in neutral our engine and wheels become disconnected.

“This forces a small amount of fuel to be sent to the engine due to the car not receiving the rotational power it needs from the wheels, instead of drawing that power directly from the wheels.”

The car picks up speed much quicker when free rolling down a hill due to gravity, meaning it will go considerably faster than it otherwise would when the engine is engaged and the car is in gear.

A driver has much less control because they can’t control the speed via engine braking – since the engine is not connected to the wheels.

If a driver found themselves in a difficult driving situation when the car was in neutral, they would struggle to quickly accelerate out of the problem.

When driving in neutral, drivers become reliant on the mechanical brakes due to the engine disengaging, which can wear out the mechanical brakes much quicker.

When driving at a higher speed, drivers will need to brake with much more force required over the same journey.

This can lead to brake discs and pads being worn out at a quicker rate.

Coasting with the clutch down is also going to cost drivers a lot more in the long run.

The clutch release bearing is the part of the clutch system that disengages the engine while the clutch pedal is pressed down.

If this clutch release bearing is under stress for longer periods than is necessary, it will need to be repaired more often than usual.

A faulty clutch release bearing requires the dismantling of the entire clutch mechanism so it can cost a lot more than many may anticipate.

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