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.  

 

 

Father-Son road trips

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Another Father’s Day has come and gone, folks, so I wanted to take some time and reflect on a great tradition in my family: the father-son road trip. I did it with my dad back when he was able, and now my own son’s talking about setting one up with me. Tell you what, I never felt as close to my old man as when we were out on that open road. If you haven’t done it, you’ve got to. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

But before you pack your stuff and peel out, you gotta have a plan, right? So I thought about how my dad and I did it back in the day, and I came up with four suggestions for you. Check ‘em out, and when you’re done, I’d love to hear your own father-son road trip stories in the comments. We are so privileged to live in this beautiful country with so many road trips to choose from, and it’s even more of a privilege to have your dad along for the ride.

1. Find a Great U.S. Road Trip

Wherever you are in these United States, I’m sure a great road trip isn’t far away. I’ll just mention a few of my favorites here. Now, the one I did with my old man was straight up the California coast from Los Angeles to Monterey, and it’s still number one on my all-time list. You take the 101 to San Luis Obispo, hop on Highway 1 heading north, and hug hairpin corners high above the Pacific for the next 80 miles or so. I will tell you to my dying day that there is no more beautiful place in the world. But if you can’t make it out west, how about the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire’s White Mountains? Or the Tail of the Dragon that slithers through the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee? The theme here is natural beauty, and I would say that’s a firm requirement for a Father’s Day road trip.

2. Pick the Right Car for the Road Trip

Alright, let’s talk cars. I was fortunate enough to be pushing a ’69 Corvette drop-top with the 350 V8 when my dad and I did the California coast (we’re talking 26 years ago here; like I said, I’m no spring chicken), and that old beast is now worth about ten times what I sold it for, but I digress. My point is, get your hands on a neat car for the road trip, because you might only get to do this once. If you’ve got the right set of wheels in your garage, more power to you; if not, consider renting a Mustang convertible or something for the occasion. Just like the trip itself, the car for the road trip should be something you look forward to every day.

3. Prepare Your Car

This won’t apply if you’re renting, of course, but if it’s your own car, do yourself a solid and get everything checked out before you leave. A good independent mechanic will only charge you maybe 50 to 75 bucks for a safety inspection, and he’ll check out your car’s systems to make sure they’re all go. If you’re a DIY type, poke around on AdvanceAutoParts.com and see if you can’t put together your own little inspection. If your air conditioning isn’t blowing as cold as it should, for example, I’ve had good luck with this A/C Pro stuff.

4. Make Your Trip a Gift to Remember

The road trip is a gift to both of you, so make it special. Spring for that upgraded room with an view, and splurge on a nice steak dinner instead of pinching your pennies. Your old man has done a lot for you; now’s your chance to return the favor. You won’t regret it, I promise.

If you’re a Dad, tell us what you did on Father’s Day? Is there a road trip in your near future? Download a copy of our handy Rules for Road Trips infographic. It’s free.

Editor’s note: Father’s Day or not, Advance Auto Parts carries a wide selection of premium tools, parts, gadgets and more—all at great savings. Get your order fast, buy online pick up in store.