How can I save gas while playing taxi driver to my kids?
Morieka Johnson can help you maximize those trips to school, tae kwon do, gymnastics, soccer ...
Wed, Aug 18, 2010 at 11:45 AM
Q: My kids start school soon, and I’m not looking forward to playing taxi driver. Got any tips to help me save gas when I’m dashing from ballet to baseball to the house several times a week? My car has seen better days, and we don’t plan to upgrade anytime soon.
A: Shuttling kids around to extracurricular events can be pretty taxing on car engines, as well as the calendar tool on your PDA. With gas prices inching up, it pays to try a few of these tips once the school bell rings.
Create a game plan: Map out your route the night before. This will help you determine shortcuts, and maximize the trip. Of course, having kids guarantees there will be an impromptu detour for two dozen birthday cupcakes or some other last-minute emergency, but a good game plan is your best defense against wasted gas. If a ballet session is near the grocery store, check your shopping list for any items that may need to be picked up. (I always stock up on toilet paper and other necessities that I’d hate to be without.) If you have an iPhone or iPad, it also helps to sign up for free apps likeAround Me that locate nearby businesses and note the driving distance.
Power of the pack: It pays to make friends during the extra innings of your kids’ baseball games. You just may find a neighbor who can split driving duties.
Lighten your load: Before the school year gets into full gear, take time to clean out your car. Remove all remnants of the summer, such as the beach gear, coolers and other nonessentials that weigh down your car. All that excess gear can reduce your mileage. According to Fueleconomy.gov, an extra 100 pounds of stuff can reduce your car’s mileage by 3 to 5 cents per gallon.
Reduce drag: If you have gear on the roof of your car, it’s time to streamline. My friend even lowers the tailgate of his truck to save a few precious drops each trip. Hey, every bit helps!
Watch your tires: The penny test is a tried-and-true measure of tire wear. Grab Lincoln and make sure your tire’s tread reaches the top of his head — that distance of about 2/32” is the minimum tread requirement in many states. It also pays to invest in a tire pressure gauge. For less than $10, this handy pen-size tool will help ensure that your tires are properly inflated. An over- or underinflated tire can affect gas mileage, so know your numbers and check those tires regularly.
Keeping tires properly inflated should be easier if you have a late-model vehicle. After the Bridgestone/Firestone tire failures on Ford Explorers, the government required all vehicles to be equipped with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems starting with 2008 model year vehicles. Look for the odd icon with the exclamation mark on your dashboard.
Easy does it: I’ll admit that this one is difficult for me, but maintaining a smooth ride that’s free of lots of herky-jerky braking and accelerating also saves gas. Load a kid-friendly DVD in the back or have the little ones read a book so you aren’t distracted during those scheduled runs. This also helps extend life of your car’s engine, brakes and tires.
Skip the premium: Unless your car specifically requires the good stuff, Consumer Reports studies show that regular petrol gets the job done just as well, so save your money.
Get a good warm-up: Resist the urge to jump in your ride and go. Forcing a cold engine to work overtime can waste gas. Let the car warm up before hitting the road.
Avoid idling: Go ahead and make the most of each minute spent in the carpool lane or waiting for your kid to load up the gear. But allowing your car to idle for more than 30 seconds means that you are getting exactly zero miles per gallon of gas. Cut the engine off as your tykes slowly meander toward the car after practice. Spend those precious moments channeling that happy place, otherwise known as the kids’ bedtime.
— Morieka Johnson
Photo: Amazon.com; thumbnail photo: Jupiterimages
MNN homepage photo: Cisale/iStockphoto