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Family road trips provide a lot of freedom when it comes to controlling and enjoying the course of a vacation.  These treks though can also be very liberating for your money when it comes to separating it from your wallet to pay for gasoline.  Of course, you need fuel to get your vehicle to and from where you want to go so filling up at the gas pump is a necessity.  Therefore traveling dads and moms need to be smart about fuel efficiency while traveling so they can have more money in their pockets for having fun on vacation rather than spending it at gas pumps along the road to a destination.

This Traveling Dad touched based with Consumer Reports to gather their best test-based tips for getting the most gas mileage out of your car to help ease the pain of filling it up during summer road trips.  Consumer Reports is a non-profit organization known for providing rigorous research, consumer insights, and policy expertise to help consumers with informed purchase decisions and businesses improve upon products. Their 327-acre auto test center is the world’s largest and most sophisticated independent  automobile testing center devoted to research from consumers’ perspectives.  Based upon Consumer Reports’ research and expertise, here are some fuel efficiency tips for summer road trips:

DRIVE SLOWER TO REDUCE FUEL COSTS

You may not get to your destination as fast, but slower driving provides greater fuel efficiency.  Get more miles per gallon of gasoline when you avoid pushing the pedal to the metal. Consumer Reports testing has found that driving faster on the highway can really take a bite out of a car’s fuel efficiency. On average when a vehicle speeds up from 55 mile per hour (mph) to 65 it will lose 4 to 8 miles per gallon (mpg) in fuel efficiency. Increasing the speed up to 75 mpg can cut fuel efficiency by an additional 5 to 7 mpg.

DON’T PURCHASE PREMIUM GASOLINE

Unless your car has a high-performance engine that requires a higher octane rating, usually 91 or above, premium gasoline won’t make a difference in how a vehicle runs. Don’t spend money on higher priced gasoline if you don’t need it.  If a car’s owner manual or a sticker on the fuel-filler door says premium gasoline is required of course use it; but otherwise regular unleaded is just fine to use on the average vehicle.

TURN ON CRUISE CONTROL

Maintaining a steady pace on the highway is the easiest way for a driver to maximize the fuel efficiency of a vehicle.  Smooth acceleration and braking also extends the life of a car’s engine, transmission, brakes, and tires. So take advantage of cruise control during family road trips.

KEEP THE ROOF CLEAR

Securing things on the roof can provide extra storage capacity while traveling but it also increases aerodynamic drag, making the engine work harder and hurting fuel economy.  When Consumer Reports tested a  2013 Honda  Accord at a steady 65 mph, it got 42 mpg with nothing on the roof. Adding an empty bike rack dropped the mileage by 5 mpg. A wind deflector reduced the wind noise but cut gas mileage to 35 mpg. And with two bikes on the rack, gas mileage dropped to 27 mpg, a whopping 15-mpg difference overall.  If you can fit everything inside your car skip the roof rack.

OPEN YOUR WINDOWS

When measured on days when the temperature was in the low 70s and high 80s, it was found cars got fewer miles per gallon when the air conditioning was on.  In general, expect a drop from 1 to 4 mpg with the AC running. On the other hand, the effect of opening the windows while driving at 65 mph was not measurable. On hot days if you can handle the heat, enjoy the fresh air to save yourself some gas with improved fuel efficiency.

KEEP YOUR TIRES PROPERLY INFLATED

A midsized sedan can lose 1.3 mpg on the highway when its tires are under-inflated by 10 psi. That is a modest drop in mpg based upon a sizeable drop in pressure so fuel economy isn’t the greatest concern here though it is something to keep in mind to make sure you are getting the most out of your vehicle. More important, though, under-inflated tires compromise a car’s handling and braking. Plus, under-inflated tires wear faster and run much hotter, which can lead to tire failure.  For safety’s sake, check tire pressure at least once a month and make sure they are properly inflated.

Click here for more automotive maintenance and repair tips courtesy of Consumer Reports. Also before heading out on your next family road trip, take a moment to read these helpful insights from my fellow Traveling Dads, Rich Christensen, Joe Cheung, and Jeff Bogle:

PREPPING YOUR CAR FOR A ROAD TRIP

WHEN’S THE BEST TIME TO LEAVE FOR A ROAD TRIP WITH KIDS

LESSONS LEARNED ON A CROSS COUNTRY FAMILY ROAD TRIP

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