Preparing For Your Road Trip: Part 1

If your spring or summer travel plans include a road trip then NOW is the time to prepare your vehicle for the adventure. Proper vehicle maintenance is a great way to improve your gas mileage. But more importantly, it is a vital way to protect your family’s safety.
Here are some tips to help achieve both better gas mileage and to ensure your family is traveling safely.

1. Keep your engine properly tuned. Fixing a car that is out of tune or has failed an emissions test can boost gas mileage by about 4 percent. Also, watch out for worn spark plugs. A misfiring spark plug can reduce a car’s fuel efficiency by as much as 30 percent.

2. Replace air filters regularly. When the engine air filter clogs with dirt, dust and bugs, it causes your engine to work harder and your car becomes less fuel-efficient. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your gas mileage by as much as 10 percent and save you 15 cents a gallon. It’s a good idea to have your engine air filter checked at each oil change. The Car Care Council recommends changing your car’s air and oil filters every three months or 3,000 miles or as specified in your owner’s manual.

3. Use the right oil. You can improve your car’s gas mileage by 1 percent to 2 percent by using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil. Also, look for motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives.

4. Pump up your tires. Underinflated tires wear down more quickly and they also lower your car’s gas mileage. Your car’s gas mileage may plummet by as much as 15 percent. Driving on underinflated tires may also reduce the life of your tires by 15 percent or more. Properly inflated tires can also cut down on your chances of having a tire blowout—which could lead to serious injuries.

5. Inspect suspension and chassis parts for occasional misalignment. Bent wheels, axles, bad shocks, broken springs, etc. create engine drag and are unsafe at high traveling speeds.

Much of what is suggested can be done on your own. However, if you are planning an extensive road trip, then car care experts recommend that you have a professional look at your vehicle before you head out on the highway. Mechanics have equipment that the average car owner does not and can easily access areas on your vehicle that you may have difficulty getting to.
Next up in our series: Planning For Your Road Trip Part 2: Buckle Up!

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.