Most drivers want to get more performance, be that quicker acceleration, higher top speed, or improved fuel economy, from their car. There are different ways to achieve these goals but they typically involve modifying or upgrading components, tuning parts of the car, and in the end, spending money and time.
However, there are some simple steps you can take that will optimise a car’s performance without going to Fast & Furious levels of modification and money. Granted, they won’t turn a Fiat into a Ferrari but if you follow the steps below, you should at least be confident that your car’s performance has been optimised and you can enjoy smooth, efficient motoring, as well as longer life from your car and a safer journey.?
Let your car warm up?
The single biggest mistake most drivers make is jumping in a car, firing it up, and accelerating away hard. This behaviour is brutal on the car and it causes a huge increase in pollution levels.
Give your car a minute or so to warm up a bit before you drive off. For the first ten or fifteen minutes, don’t push the car too hard. Try to be more gentle with the gearbox, too.?
Tyre/wheel condition and alignment??
Tyres that are under-inflated or over-inflated, damaged wheels, and poor wheel alignment can lead to poor fuel economy, increased pollution, higher wear levels, and even an accident.??
Before driving, give the wheels a quick visual inspection for cuts, deep abrasions or bulges on the sidewalls, and any signs of damage to the wheels. Check tyre pressures and condition, as well as tread depth, carefully every week, and don’t forget the spare wheel.
Have the tyres rotated every 8,000-10,000 kms. Have the alignment checked at the same time.
Ensure all of bulbs, inside and out, work properly. Headlight lenses that are badly yellowed or otherwise damaged should be replaced or repaired. Look online for easy fixes.
Under the bonnet?
?With engine off and cooled down, and the car standing on level ground, check the level and condition of engine coolant (don’t do this when the engine is hot!), engine oil, brake fluid, windscreen wiper fluid, and (if possible) transmission and power-steering fluid.?
Inspect engine hoses for signs of ageing, such as cracks, crazing, or swelling. Make sure the battery is firmly secured, with no leaks or cracks.?
Check for corrosion on battery terminals and that all cables are securely fixed. Poor electrical connections here can cause poor running and mysterious electrical gremlins. Also check the ground strap that normally runs from the engine to the car chassis.?
Learn how to find the air filter and cabin air filter (if any). Check both of them and replace if necessary.?
Clear out any detritus such as leaves that have collected in the engine bay, especially in the scuttle area at the base of the windscreen and around intakes for engine air or cabin ventilation.?
At the wheel?
Don’t sit too close to the wheel or recline the seat too far back. The seat should be close enough that you can operate all pedals properly without pulling away from the seat back.?
The seat back should be angled at around 100-110°. With your shoulders against the seat back, you should be able to rest the heels of your hands on top of the wheel. With your hands at “9 and 3” clock positions on the steering wheel, your arms should be slightly bent at the elbows.?
?If the windscreen wipers leave streaks, replace the rubbers with quality items.?
If the brakes feel spongy, the brake fluid or flexible hoses may need to be replaced.?
If the clutch engages too sharply or very high up in the pedal movement, it might need to be adjusted or replaced.?
The Nut Behind the Wheel?
There is any old saying that the most important part of a car is “the nut behind the wheel”. Sometimes, this important part can benefit from adjustment.??
When did you last read your car’s user manual? Do you know where the fuse box, jack and tool kit are? Do you have spare bulbs and fuses???
Have you reviewed the Highway Code recently??
Do you drive hard, wearing out the clutch, brakes and tyres and battling with other road users or are you mastering the art of smooth driving, helping traffic flow and improving your fuel economy? After all, it doesn’t matter how optimised your car is if you don’t endeavour to use it in a truly skilled way.??
Carrying your head in the right place, with a healthy attitude to driving and solid understanding of the rules of the road can be the single most important way to optimise a car’s performance.