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.
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.
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!
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
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