Doctor Diesel

It all adds up!

I really liked the latest November issue on SUVs and 4×4, and I believe that I may let myself be tempted by one of these to replace my ageing C5. I have always been an ìestate personî, but I do fancy a bit of extra off-road ability and a higher driving position.

Anyway, I wanted to share some thoughts with you regarding the Extra Mile. I would agree with Victor Harman regarding the fact that, for many people, economical driving is synonymous with boring driving and I can understand why not everybody gets a kick out of extracting the most performance out of the smallest amount of fuel, and running their car at maximum efficiency. But people may not realise that the savings are not just about fuel. I do consider myself an economical driver, and I regularly exceed the extra urban efficiency numbers quoted for the car, partly because my driving is 99 per cent on motorways and most of the time outside of peak hours, allowing me to select my speed and stick to it for long periods of time. 

Having done so for almost 10 years, and 264,000 miles, I can testify that the savings are quite significant. Wear and tear gets considerably reduced, and not only do I save on fuel, but on parts and maintenance. The most obvious savings are on brakes (I am still on the original brake discs and my second set of brake pads) on tyres (Michelin Energy will last 70k miles) and particulate filter (still original too). I also appear to have avoided any issues with injectors or EGR valves, and so far, the engine is still very sweet. To my mind, engine wear is more about litres of fuel burnt than miles covered. An engine sat in traffic ticking over will age, even though no distance is covered. An engine brutalised under harsh acceleration burns more fuel and ages faster than an engine gently asked to pick up speed. Likewise, a DPF will be forced through more regeneration cycles over the same distance if one uses more fuel on any journey. It all adds-up! Keep up the good work. 

Hugues Lecoeuche

The editor passed me your recent e-mail Hugues, for which many thanks. I have had some decent long conversations with Victor about what you say. Both he and I are pretty much in total agreement with your philosophy of driving, and also very much take on board what you say about the issue really being how much fuel you need to put in your tank, rather than how many miles per gallon or kilometres per litre. Victor says that he does quite regularly nag people in The Extra Mile about thinking ahead and planning smart routes (le Bison Fute in France! Any readers remember him, from touring France, and the special maps for smart non-Autoroute roads that used to be available?) that avoid the traffic and allow you to cruise at nice steady and economical speeds. Too many people don’t even plan ahead at all regarding routes, or research the viable alternatives (if you don’t have a navigation system) if things go wrong. It’s a smart move to travel on the motorways in the quieter hours, as you do Hugues, although not always easy if you’re expected home for dinner at a reasonable hour!

You’re also dead right about good economical driving reducing maintenance and repair costs, particularly brakes and brake parts. I can personally claim never to have ever had a clutch replaced in over 50 years of motoring. Although I’ve driven lots of miles in cars that I have not owned, I think I have still driven them all with reasonable sympathy, even when test driving, and usually one eye on the on-board computerised mpg display. I do remember giving a Volkswagen Touareg a pretty hard time on one Volkswagen test day, to see if I could keep the mpg display below the 16mpg that was showing when I took over the car from the previous tester!

Of my own cars, and I have records for 146,000 miles going back just over 10 years, with each car averaging near to 40,000 miles, I can only remember buying two sets of brake pads and one set of front discs that corroded rather than wore out. As you also say, it’s not just through good luck that you’ve suffered no problems with fuel injectors and emissions control equipment, like EGR and DPFs. I shall take great pleasure in publishing your thoughts in the Doctor Diesel pages, with the hope that they inspire others to adopt a similar approach! Many thanks again for writing.

The Doctor

P.S. Is the Bison Fute still active, do you know? I have never actually seen him on the road in France – maybe he is usually grazing away quietly in some roadside field? (In joke this. Doc.)

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