How to Save Gas Money on Your Summer Road Trip

Gas is on the way up with no sign of it going back down any time soon. As we move into peak summer road trip season, gas is climbing up to nearly $3 a gallon in many places. This means fuel efficiency is becoming more important.

Tips like these are especially important for families, who don’t have the luxury of driving a tiny fuel-efficient car. Here’s just a few ways to save gas and money on your road trip this summer:

Use the A/C



The age-old debate of which is less fuel-efficient: windows down or A/C on. It has been a subject of heated discussions on countless road trips. Now, the science is in.

While your A/C does reduce your fuel efficiency a bit, it’s nowhere near as much of a drag as leaving your windows open. Modern cars are extremely aerodynamic and opening the windows pretty much ruins that.

Drive Gently



Most cars now come with live fuel-efficiency readings. This is a great way to see how your driving habits are affecting your fuel economy.

In general, maintaining speed takes far less energy than gaining speed. This means it’s best to try and maintain a steady speed, especially on the highway. That means easy on the gas, easy on the brakes. For long road trips, applying the cruise control will help tremendously.

Poor driving habits–applying gas and brakes too often and too harshly-can reduce your gas mileage by as much as 35 percent. Learn to drive more gently and it won’t take long before you notice the difference at the pump.

Keep Those Tires Pumped



Ever try pushing a wheelbarrow with a flat tire? It’s pretty much impossible. Now, imagine that wheelbarrow is a car that weighs thousands of pounds. Maybe now you understand why it’s important to keep your tires properly inflated.

The proper PSI for your tires will be listed on a sticker inside the door jamb on the driver’s side. Keep a tire gauge in your car or make use of the ones at nearly every gas station. Tires that are under inflated by even just a few PSI will see a dramatic decrease in fuel efficiency.

Rotate and Balance



Having tires and wheels properly rotated and balanced is also a major contributor to fuel efficiency.

Uneven wear on tires and unbalanced wheels means that some of the energy that could be driving the wheels will be used just to keep the car rolling straight. Think about how obnoxious it is when you get a grocery cart with a shaky wheel. That’s how your car feels when you don’t balance your wheels or rotate your tires.

Get a Tune Up



There’s really never a bad time to get a tune up, but shortly before you set off on a long road trip might be the best time.

You’d be surprised how much your air filter, for example, affects your gas mileage. Having it replaced will make a huge difference. Plus, a tune-up is a great opportunity to have your mechanic look everything over.

Don’t Fill Up Too Often



Many people like keeping their tanks at least half-full (or half-empty, depending on your disposition). While it’s comforting knowing you’ve got hundreds of miles left on the tank, filling up too often can be a real drain on your fuel economy.

For starters, every stop for gas means driving a little out of the way. It also means shutting the engine off and turning it back on again. This is when your fuel efficiency is the lowest.

In addition, an emptier tank weighs less than one that’s full. If you allow the tank to get down to ¼ full, you’ll be pulling less weight and therefore see a small uptick in gas mileage.



While no single one of these tips is going to change your financial life forever, they will certainly add up, especially if you are putting a few hundred (or thousand, if you’re really lucky) miles on the car this summer!

As always, we are big believers in making things last and saving money. For more articles about how to keep your car running in tip-top shape, follow the Strutmasters blog.