Summer Driving: Beat the Heat!

Is your car ready for the long journey ahead?

Summer is here and more than likely you will be taking to the road over the next few months. From now through Labor Day, millions of Americans will be heading out by car, plane, train and bus.

Car travel is still the most significant of the conveyances used by vacationers to get them where they are going. But there are challenges too, including traffic, possible breakdowns, and driver fatigue. Here’s how to beat the heat this summer and arrive at your destination safely.

Prepare Your Car

Traveling hundreds or thousands of miles while on vacation can take a toll on your car. It is important that your vehicle is road-ready and that means completing your scheduled maintenance before you head out.

Your owner’s manual should be followed and all due items handled before you leave. It is also a good idea to confirm the working order of your lights, your battery connection, hoses, clamps, and tires. Make sure your spare tire has enough air; replace those worn wiper blades before you leave.

Bring an Emergency Kit

flat tireIf you do experience a breakdown, will you have your auto club’s number handy to assist you? What problems can you handle yourself? Putting together some type of emergency kit is important and can keep you and your family safe while you wait.

An emergency kit should be composed of a working flashlight, extra batteries, reflective warning triangles or flares, jumper cables, gloves, duct tape, rags, a tire gauge, and foam tire sealant. You might also include a cell phone charger or extra battery, drinking water, snacks, and tools such as a screwdriver, an army knife, and scissors.

Mountains can be very cool at night, even in the summer. A thermal blanket and the ability to make something hot to eat can help here.

Plan Your Route

Today’s cars come with GPS and that makes it easier for you to map your route and get to your destination. Still, it can be useful to find out what road blocks or detours may be in place along the way and plan accordingly. After all, summer is also road construction season.

Travel along roads that are well kept, marked and lit. Take a route that allows you to stop every two or three hours to stretch your legs, eat and fill up the tank. It is best to drive during daylight hours when you are less likely to battle fatigue. You might also incorporate a stop that will keep the children interested such as a park or amusements.

Save on Fuel

Taking a long trip provides an invitation for you to compare the EPA-estimated fuel economy for your vehicle to your real world numbers. Reaching those numbers may prove more challenging than what you had expected. With a little effort on your part, you can meet, even beat those statistics.

That being said, saving fuel begins with the way you drive. If you are prone to taking jackrabbit starts, then your gas mileage will suffer accordingly. Ease down on the accelerator — do not drive as if you are on the track and always brake with care.

Properly inflated tires are important in helping you save fuel too. Your tires should be checked when cold and inflated to the PSI number listed in your owner’s manual or on the placard located on the door jamb on the driver’s side.

summer tow truck signOne of the best ways to save on fuel is to use cruise control on the open road. As long as road conditions are dry, then flick the cruise switch and set it for the speed limit. Turn off the cruise control when the road is wet to avoid an accident.

As far as your choice of fuel, use the recommended grade. If your car runs fine on regular gasoline avoid higher fuel grades and the elevated prices that come with it.

Your Summer Driving Itinerary

If your trip takes you to or through a remote area, it is advisable to share your itinerary with someone who isn’t with you. This person may be someone you plan to visit or an individual who is otherwise in contact with you along the way, such as by cell phone.

Keep in mind that cell phone gaps (dead zones) exist in more remote parts of the country and may not provide a way for you to contact someone if you encounter a problem. If you don’t arrive at your destination within the allotted time, then someone will be ready to send help if you instruct them to do so.

On the Road This Summer

Is your car up to the trip? If your vehicle is old or well worn, you might consider renting a vehicle for your time away. You will pay for rental cost, gasoline and insurance, while avoiding the wear and tear that would have been experienced by your car.


See Also — What Your Breakdown Cover Policy Offers

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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