Ten tips for saving fuel and having fun on your summer road trip

Gas prices are going down across America. That’s good news to travelers fearing a repeat of 2008’s high gas price of $4.11 a gallon. AAA’s daily Fuel Gauge report shows regular gas at an average of $3.65 per gallon right now, down from $3.88 a month ago but still way higher than this time last year when it was $2.72 per gallon. Still, Summer road trip plans once put on hold have a breath of new life as prices continue to drop.

At the US Department of Energy (DOE) our supply of gasoline is a big deal and their fuel saving tips are a great source of information. Unfortunately they’re kind of dry reading and a lot of the same information you learned in drivers ed back in high school.

At Gadling, road trips rule supreme as one form of travel we can all do, anytime with anyone willing to go along for the ride. Gadling road trippers have a juicy, unique perspective on the American road that offers tips of a different nature.

Here are ten DOE fuel-saving tips along with ten Gadling road trips posts.

1. Keep Your Engine Properly Tuned-
Fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4 percent, though results vary based on the kind of repair and how well it is done. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40 percent.

20 tips for surviving a summer road trip, courtesy of touring musicians

2. Keep Tires Properly Inflated
You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. Properly inflated tires are safer and last longer.

The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is usually found on a sticker in the driver’s side door jamb or the glove box and in your owner’s manual. Do not use the maximum pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall.

Top Ten Reasons that Road Trips Rock

3. Use the Recommended Grade of Motor Oil

You can improve your gas mileage by 1–2 percent by using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil. For example, using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can lower your gas mileage by 1–2 percent. Using 5W-30 in an engine designed for 5W-20 can lower your gas mileage by 1–1.5 percent. Also, look for motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives.

Summer road trip plans; don’t let gas prices slow you down

4. Replacing a Clogged Air Filter on Modern Cars Improves Performance but Not MPG

A new study shows that replacing a clogged air filter on cars with fuel-injected, computer-controlled gasoline engines does not improve fuel economy but it can improve acceleration time by around 6 to 11 percent. This kind of engine is prevalent on most gasoline cars manufactured from the early 1980s onward.

Tests suggest that replacing a clogged air filter on an older car with a carbureted engine may improve fuel economy 2 to 6 percent under normal replacement conditions or up to 14 percent if the filter is so clogged that it significantly affects drivability.

The effect of a clogged air filter on diesel vehicles will be tested in the near future.

Travelers chronicle epic road trip through the Congo

5. Drive Sensibly

Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. Sensible driving is also safer for you and others, so you may save more than gas money.

Road trip: Healthy snacks that satisfy your kids’ cravings

6. Observe the Speed Limit

Graph showing MPG VS speed MPG decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mphWhile each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.

You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.30 per gallon for gas.

Observing the speed limit is also safer.

Ten “must have” road trip safety products

7. Remove Excess Weight

Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle, especially heavy ones. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your MPG by up to 2 percent. The reduction is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle’s weight and affects smaller vehicles more than larger ones.

Road trip: The best roadside attractions on the east and west coasts

8. Avoid Excessive Idling

Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner (AC) use. Turn off your engine when your vehicle is parked. It only takes a few seconds worth of fuel to restart your vehicle. Turning your engine on and off excessively, however, may increase starter wear.

Wanted: Fire truck for 10,000 mile road trip

9. Use Cruise Control

Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas.

Travel How-to: Road trip through Glacier National Park in the winter

10. Use Overdrive Gears

When you use overdrive gearing, your car’s engine speed goes down. This saves gas and reduces engine wear.

Traveling the American Road -this is for sure one not to pass up as Paul Brady “takes to the country’s interstates, highways and back roads to prove it can, exploring both famous Americana and the little-known, roadside inns and road houses, national parks and parking lot flea markets, searching out the stories making so many places in America unique”