Q: My husband and I are taking our kids to visit family in southern Missouri for Thanksgiving. With a minivan full of luggage and kids and gas prices where they are, what can we do to get the most out of every gallon of gas?
A: Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do before and during a trip so that you have fewer stops for refueling. First and foremost, make sure your vehicle is in tip top shape:
- Inspect suspension and chassis parts for misalignment. Bent wheels, axles, bad shocks, broken springs and other issues create engine drag and are unsafe at high traveling speeds.
- Keep your engine tuned. You can increase gas mileage by an average of 4 percent by tuning your engine according to your owner's manual.
- Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned to increase gas mileage another 3 percent.
- Change your oil. Clean oil reduces wear caused by friction between moving parts and removes damaging substances from the engine. You can improve gas mileage by using the grade of motor oil recommended in your owner's manual and changing it when called for.
There's also things you can do while driving to reduce your gas usage:
- Try to avoid lots of traffic lights and heavy traffic. A longer route might be more fuel efficient if you don't have to stop as many times.
- Don't be in such a hurry. As speed increases, fuel economy decreases dramatically.
- Use cruise control to maintain a constant speed.
- Keep in mind that the weight of the vehicle has a big impact on gas mileage. Even though you'll have it packed with your family and all of your suitcases, remove any unnecessary cargo inside. An extra 100 pounds can reduce fuel economy by up to 2 percent.
- Outside, clear that snow off. It's added weight and drag. A 3- or 4-inch layer on your trunk, roof and hood can add nearly 50 pounds of extra weight.
When you do need gas on your trip, don't spend more than you need to. Some gas stations charge more when you pay with a credit card to cover processing fees credit card companies charge them, so make sure you stop at a station that charges the same amount for paying cash or using a credit or debit card.
Coming next week: Smart phone apps and web sites that help you find the area's cheapest gas—even when you're traveling.
Brian Blohm is the Service Manager and Managing Partner - Operations for CARS of America in Glenview. He is an ASE-Certified Automotive Service Technician and ASE-Certified Service Advisor with more than 25 years of automotive experience. A graduate of Triton College with an associate's degree in Automotive Technology, he has continued his training and education with the Automotive Training Institute and RL O'Connor. You can reach Brian via email at email@example.com.