The road trip is a great tradition for many Americans. However, with gas prices increasing, drivers need to get the most out of their gas mileage no matter how far they're going. Here's a helpful guide to keep your car in top condition, while maximizing your gas mileage during the hot summer driving season.
Check your fluid levels
Have your cooling system checked, flushed and filled before you head out on the road. You'll also want to check and top off all your car fluids including your antifreeze, engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission fluids and windshield washer fluid.
Look for leaks
Check around your driveway for any suspicious leaks that may be coming from your car. You especially want to check for any gas tank leaks! Even the tiniest leak in your gas tank can amount to a large hole in your wallet if not caught soon enough—not to mention the safety concerns.
Check the air filter
A clogged air filter can cause up to a 10% decrease in fuel economy. By replacing your air filter you will be able to improve your fuel economy and help keep your engine in top shape.
Check all seat belts and car/booster seats
Before traveling, make sure to check that all of your seatbelts work and are secure. If you are traveling with a small child, make sure that their car/booster seat is installed properly. You can get detailed instructions at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's child passenger safety information section.
Plan your trip in advance
Before you leave for your trip, take time to map out your course. This will help you find the most direct route to your destination, while also helping to prevent unnecessary stops to ask for directions. Make sure to also check the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration's website for any construction or closed road notices.
Observe the speed limit
Gas mileage decreases rapidly when your car exceeds 60 MPH. By observing the speed limit you will not only save on gas, but also help keep you and your family out of harm's way. To find out the current car and truck speed limits for the state you are traveling to, check the National Motorists Association's website.
Avoid rush hour
When possible, try driving during non-peak hours. This will help conserve gas and prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your vehicle.
Purchase a road atlas or a GPS system
You never know when you might take a wrong turn or decide to make an unexpected stop. By having a road atlas or GPS system inside your car, you can easily get yourself back on track without too much hassle or aggravation.
First aid kit and roadside assistance kit
Accidents can happen anytime, anyplace. So be prepared by bringing along a first aid kit and roadside assistance kit. Make sure to also pack an extra blanket, cell phone charger, flashlight, non-perishable foods, a battery-operated radio and extra batteries in case of an emergency.
Pack a cooler
To avoid multiple food stops, fill a cooler with pop, water and snacks. This will not only help you save time, it will also help you save money!
Keep kids entertained with portable DVD players, CD players, hand-held electronic games, coloring books and small board games. This will help make the trip much more bearable for you and your children.
Create your own mini garage kit by filling a car organizer with an extra bottle of windshield washer fluid, oil, water and paper towels. This way you will have all the bare necessities right inside your car.
Proof of auto insurance
The more miles you drive, the better your chances are of getting into an accident. That is why you need to make sure you have your proof of insurance with you.
Worried that your auto insurance company won't cover you if you're involved in an accident out-of-state? Don't be! In general, U.S. auto insurance companies will cover you when traveling to other states. Your auto insurance "morphs" to meet the requirements of the state you are traveling in, so if you do end up in a fender bender, you're covered. In addition, most American insurance companies will also cover your vehicle while traveling in Canada, but if you are going to Mexico you will need to purchase special insurance. Contact your auto insurance provider for more information about traveling to Mexico.
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Originally posted September 18, 2006.
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