Few things are more American than the long road trip. Kids in the back arguing about who crossed the imaginary line and Mom and Dad in front threatening to “turn this car around if you kids can’t behave.”
If you’ve taken a family vacation or ever traveled with kids, chances are you’ve been on a road trip. Audra Fordin, a fourth-generation auto mechanic in Flushing, New York, offers these tips for making it a better road trip and saving money on gas in the process.
1. The long and winding road that leads to your destination is more relaxing and less stressful than the crowded highway. Map it out before you go. If you have the time, take the long way home and look at how beautiful America is. This is priceless.
2. Your trip is not going to be a good one if you spend it in a small town with an unknown mechanic who is also the local telephone operator. Make sure your car is ready for the trip. Have it checked before you head out on the road. This will save you both time and money.
3. Pack your cooler–for a road trip, for the beach, for the game! It will save you from those “extra” stops, which will save you time and money.
4. If you have to make a bathroom stop, try to hold off until you pass through a major city. Talk about amazing women multi-tasking. Have your camera ready. You never know what you’re going to see when you’re on the road. This is priceless.
5. Keep your eye on the gas gauge. Exits can be far and few between when you reach unfamiliar territory. Try not to let your gas gauge go below the quarter mark. This will save you time, money and hassle.
6. If your car starts to overheat, put the heater on HIGH (even if it’s 100 degrees outside) to bring the hot air from the engine into the cabin. This should help to buy you more time to get to the service station.
7. If your charging system light comes on while you are driving, shut off all the “extras” (a/c, interior lights, radio, defroster, if it’s daytime, shut off the headlights too). Going bare minimum will relieve some of the load on the engine—maybe enough to allow you to reach a repair shop.
8. S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. Going fast is so tempting, and fun. Not only do we do it to keep up with the flow of traffic, but if we can save even five minutes, it seems worth it. Right? Wrong! If you’re on the highway, driving 60 miles per hour instead of 70 mph will save you 2-4 miles per gallon over the duration of your trip.
9. Sure, it’s fun to speed up in between lights and then slam on the brakes when we get to the next light, but it’s a huge waste of gas and it puts extra wear on your brakes.
10. Driving 55 MPH steady will net you 2-4 more gallons of gas, instead of fluctuating between 55-75 MPH. Constantly accelerating and decelerating does not give your engine the chance the burn the gas efficiently.
11. Do not keep the car running when people are in it–especially in enclosed areas. The carbon monoxide gas released from the exhaust is toxic.
12. If you’re not driving, if your car is not moving, if you are just sitting in the car, there is no need to be wasting the precious gas that makes your car go. Shut it off.
13. Just get in, start up and go. Cars of today are fuel injected. There is no need to let the car sit and “warm up.” They are designed to start up and go.
14. How often do you go to the gas station and think you are giving you car a “treat” by putting in a higher octane gas. Nope! Putting in premium gas if your car calls for regular has no benefit to your car at all. If your car calls for regular, put in regular. If it calls for premium, put in premium. Check your owners’ manual or look on the gas cap to see which grade of gasoline is right for your car.
15. Pack light and choose a smaller car. The heavier your car is, the harder your car works. The lighter your car is, the less stress the engine has, the better your fuel economy is.
16. If your air conditioner is on, there is extra load on your engine causing you to use more gas. Unless you’re on the highway, keep the windows open, get some fresh air and save money on gas.
17. If you are driving on the highway, having the windows open creates an aerodynamic drag that causes an engine to work harder, thus causing you to use more gas. Close the windows when you’re driving fast to save money on gas.
18. A clean air filter can save you up to 10% on fuel economy. Check it every 7,000 to 10,000 miles and replace it when it’s dirty.
19. Check your tire pressure. If your tire pressure is low, your engine has to work harder to move the car and it causes uneven wear on your tires, which can affect your steering and braking. The harder your engine works, the more gas is wasted. Air is free.
20. Think about where and what time you’re going on your next outing. The quickest route is not always the most fuel efficient if you are stuck in heavy traffic or have to make frequent stops.
21. Be aware of your gas consumption. Keep track of your gas mileage. If you notice you are not getting the maximum mileage per gallon, have it checked. It could be as easy as low tire pressure.
Audra Fordin owns Great Bear Auto Body in Flushing, New York. She runs free workshops called “Women Auto-Know” on the third Saturday of every month to educate women about basic car repair. Empowerment! Women, girls, aunts, daughters, nieces (men, dads, sons, uncles and grandpas are included too).