Canadian gas prices are set to be at an all time high this summer. For many of us capitalizing on the holiday season, that means playing a little budget Tetris. As I write this, gas prices range from a low in Manitoba of $1.285 a litre to the country’s left coast, British Columbia, where drivers are facing down $1.484. Ouch.
This will also be the first sustained test of all those who piled into the SUV market, the redhot segment that shows no signs that consumers will ever level off their, well, consuming. Where once they thought their three wishes from a Genie would be onboard wifi, separate temperature zones and a built in vacuum, that pain at the pump may have some buyers wishing for that perhaps more cramped, but cheaper to run, hatchback.
So, what are you gonna do? Plans are made, kids have fought over the seating arrangements, and you’re ready to hit the open road. Can you alleviate any of the pump pain?
Sure you can. You can’t change your vehicle, but you can certainly change some of your habits and delay some fuel-ups on the way from the city to the country.
• Get rid of excess weight. Might seem hard to do when you’ve loaded in a family and all the gear, but think where you can lighten up. Hauling along tons of groceries and a couple of coolers and cases of beer for hours often isn’t necessary. If you’re headed anywhere near a town, chances are you can do your shopping near where you’re going. I get the same flyers for the town near my cottage, so it’s even familiar territory.
• Aerodynamics are real. Today’s cars are incredibly streamlined because manufacturers are already working hard to make their vehicles more fuel efficient than ever before. But things like bulky roof racks cut into those savings; if you don’t need them, take them off. If you do need to tote gear on the roof, consider one of those sculpted and aerodynamic Thule carriers, which are also safer than having a bunch of gear tied down and in danger of flapping loose.
• Drive smooth. Gentle starts, anticipating stops and maintaining a steady speed, which is even possible in stop-and-go traffic of long weekends. Every vehicle has a sweet spot for fuel economy and, surprise! It’s usually around the speed limit. Construction and chaos is a fundamental part of Canadian summers, but thanks to all the information we have at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever to know what’s coming up, plan your route around it, or search for off hours. Another bonus of smooth driving is the barfers in your car will thank you.
• Buddy up. As kids start to meet up with you rather than drive with you to family vacation spots, encourage them to compare notes and share rides. This might be obvious if you all still live under the same roof, but a little advance planning can mean fewer cars going to the same place.
• Set the tone. My father used to be adamant that we’d get to the cottage and never leave for any reason. We’d pester my mother to take us into town every day. Nothing empties fuel faster than adding an hour of driving every day to buy popsicles. Coordinate errands, make lists, and whittle down how often you leave the lake to find asphalt.
• Under pressure. Check your tire pressure regularly. You can lose 2 per cent of your fuel economy for every five PSI your tires are underinflated. With temperatures soaring across the country, tire pressures can fluctuate. The required number for your car can be found in the sticker inside the driver’s side door. Don’t be tempted to overinflate, thinking you’ll gain an edge; you won’t, and overinflated tires will negatively impact your car’s handling.
• Keep your car tuned, and use the right fuel. If your manual calls for high octane, don’t cheap out. Anti knock sensors will help your engine protect itself if you do, but you will compromise performance. Your engine was also designed with that fuel requirement, and it will probably end up using more of the cheaper gas to perform, meaning you’re not saving as much as you might think. Follow your owner’s manual.
Gas prices are promising to stay up with the thermometre. A little extra planning might help you avoid some of the pain of those family trips.