A road trip and Dad’s fuel efficiency (or lack thereof)

Advance Auto PartsWith summer almost over, it’s time to reflect. When you’re a kid, those long, hot lazy days are seemingly endless, full of promise, adventure, fun and freedom. Until one hot June day, just as summer break is getting cranked up, your dad comes home from work all excited and drops a bomb.

“Kids, this summer, we’re spending three weeks on the road, driving from New Jersey to the Grand Canyon, towing the camper behind us! The six of us will spend a lot of time together! It’ll be great!”

Uh, no it won’t. For a 13-year-old just starting to plan his summer, have there ever been more terrifying words? I think not. My plan was to spend the summer riding my bike and hanging with friends, not being trapped in a Dodge Ram conversion van with my three siblings and parents on an epic cross-country journey, living in a pop-up camper for three weeks.

This was not going to be good, or so I thought. For one thing, the old man was obsessed with fuel mileage. Always tracking the miles driven and gallons pumped at each fill up, and having a conniption whenever he forgot to record either. As obsessive as he was about the fuel efficiency, however, he didn’t give a hoot about vehicle maintenance. Tire pressure? Air filter? Oil change? A/C tune up? Nah, who needs them. We just hit the road, letting the pieces (hopefully not from our vehicle) fall where they may.

I’m pretty sure that if he had realized the impact a few simple maintenance items have on fuel mileage, not to mention vehicle reliability before a long road trip, he would have been sure to address them before our road trip.

According to fueleconomy.gov, the official U.S. government source for fuel economy information, you can take three steps right now to improve your fuel economy.

  • Keep your vehicle properly tuned and increase mileage by as much as four percent. Fixing a seriously out-of-tune engine, like one with a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve mileage up to 40 percent.
  • Keep your tires at the inflation pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer and improve fuel mileage by more than three percent.
  • Use the recommended grade of oil for a one to two percent increase.
  • And here’s a statistic that just might surprise you, as well as your friends. On newer cars with fuel injection and computer-controlled engines, the air filter does impact acceleration but it has no impact on fuel mileage. The air filter does impact fuel mileage on older vehicles without that technology. Either way, check your air filter to see if it’s time for a change.

Somewhere between South Dakota’s legendary Corn Palace and the Grand Canyon, I came to the somewhat surprising, albeit gradual, realization that maybe this trip wasn’t such a bad idea after all. We were seeing some really cool things. Don’t get me wrong, this surly teenager found plenty of reasons to complain, like getting in trouble for “sleeping through all the scenery” or nursing frequent bloody noses thanks to the West’s incredibly low humidity levels. But all in all, it was a truly memorable vacation, even if my dad didn’t get the gas mileage he wanted and we all scattered like jackrabbits, including my parents, the second we returned home.

Editor’s note: If you’re planning an epic, end-of-summer road trip, either with your family or to get away from them, make your first stop  Advance Auto Parts for preventive maintenance items and a roadside emergency kit.  

 

 

Plan Your Summer Stance

Advance Auto PartsSummer’s here. For many of us that means loading up the family car with siblings (and sometimes parents) that don’t along, pets with gas, and way too much stuff for another epic adventure most commonly known as “The Annual Family Summer Vacation.”

Or not.

This summer, If you’re lucky enough to be doing what you want, where you want, when you want and with whom you want to be doing it, then I’ve got some road trip suggestions for you – particularly if you’re into import tuners and “bagged, stanced and stretched” are part of your vocabulary.

Aggressive fitment will be front and center when Stance:Nation brings its Stancenation & Showoff – Nisei Edition to Los Angeles Saturday August 17 where some of the West Coast’s top cars and import tuners to compete for trophies and prizes.

West Coasters would do right to also check out the annual WEKFEST San Francisco on their fifth anniversary, July 27 at the San Jose Convention Center. Billing itself as “featuring 300-plus of the West Coast’s best euro and import builds. WEKFEST is your destination to see some of the best on display.”Advance Auto Parts

If the mere thought of 300 import tuner beauties on display in one spot has you salivating but you live on the East Coast and don’t have the time or rich relatives to finance a cross-country trip, don’t despair. Check out WEKEAST on Sunday, August 25 at the N.J. Expo & Convention Center in Edison, N.J., with 300 of the best builds the East Coast has to offer.

Summer’s also heating up thanks to the continuation of the epic Hot Import Nights shows. With four shows remaining this summer in Seattle, Loudon, N.H., Seoul, Korea, and Houston, and another five shows scheduled to close out the year. HIN says it features “the hottest cars, models, and music,” and at the New Hampshire event – drifters.

Speaking of drifting, Streetwise Drift has a bunch of amateur and ProAm events scheduled through the summer in the Southeast while the big boys over at Formula D have three more drifting events remaining in Washington, Texas and California before they crown the 2013 Formula D champion.

Now, if you do decide to road trip it to any of these events, here’s how to avoid turning it into a repeat of that stressful family vacation from your childhood, or at the very least, having a significant other giving you the death stare from the right seat. Pop the hood and check your vehicle’s vital signs. You know the drill – fluid levels, battery age, belt and hose condition, tire pressure, lights, wipers, a/c temperature. Do it in the driveway now, so you don’t have to hear about it on the side of the road later.

Got any favorite import tuner shows or  memorable photos from a recent road trip or drifting event? Share ‘em here, and enjoy summer!

Editor’s note: If you’ve got a road trip in the works, download this handy infographic for helpful tips — no matter what kind of ride you’re taking.

 

Photos courtesy of Formula Drift and Stancenation.