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Update: 16 tips for a safe and cost effecient road trip [video]

Henno Havenga
By Henno Havenga
September 23, 2020

16 tips for a safe and cost efficient road tripFor most of us, it’s been a while since we hit the open road. Here are some great tips and tricks from our expert, Brendon Carpenter, to help you stay safe and save fuel on your next family holiday.

Family road trips are a great holiday option if you want to experience some of South Africa’s natural beauty. However, driving long distances on our notoriously dangerous roads can be a challenge.

That’s why Brendon Carpenter, our Brand Marketing Manager, shared some of his safety and petrol-saving secrets to help South African motorists have a safe and cost-effective journey.

1. Get your car serviced

Get all those squeaks and rattles sorted before you hit the road. Whether your car has been standing idle for a while, or whether you’ve still been travelling to work, odds are you haven’t been able to care for your vehicle the way you normally would.

Make sure your vehicle servicing and licensing is up to date, and that you check all the necessities from lights to tyres.

2. Plan your route

“If it’s a road you haven’t travelled, ask around for advice on what to expect. What is the condition of the road surface; are there any roadworks or stop/go sections? You need to keep all these in mind,” says Brendon.

3. Plan where to stop

Regular rests are essential to staying safe on the road. It’s best to time these for every two hours, or 200km. Take a break from being behind the wheel, and stretch your legs to keep your mind alert. “I like to take this time to do a quick walk around of the car and trailer if I'm towing,” says Brendon.

4. Check your laden tyre pressure

Your car only touches the ground at four, palm-sized points – your tyres. If your pressure is incorrect, a wheel could blow or severely affect your handling. Remember that a heavily laden car has a different recommended tyre pressure to an empty car, so stop by a petrol station close to your home on your way out before heat builds up in the tyre.  Remember to get your own decent quality tyre pressure gauge to make sure pressures are correct.

5. Check your trailer

If you’re travelling with a trailer, test its lights, tyre pressure, and spare wheel, and check that the licence is still valid. Many trailers have been neglected this year. Even if yours was parked undercover, do a full safety inspection and a ‘test tow’ before you even think of loading it.

6. Streamline

Roof racks can have a negative impact on your overall fuel efficiency as they increase the wind resistance and drag on your car. Remove your roof rack if you are not using it. Also try and position the weight of your cargo as low as possible in the car. This will help improve stability and handling with a lower centre of gravity.

Roof racks can have a negative impact on your overall fuel efficiency as they increase the wind resistance and drag on your car. Remove your roof rack if you are not using it. Also try and position the weight of your cargo as low as possible in the car. This will help improve stability and handling with a lower centre of gravity.

7.  Lose weight

A bulky, loaded car is not only tricky to drive but also heavy on fuel. On a holiday it’s tricky, but try to keep your car as lean as possible. During more regular driving times, even carrying an extra person makes a difference to fuel consumption.

8. Drive smoothly

Aggressive drivers use more fuel with their speeding, rapid acceleration and braking. Remember, easy does it! Smooth driving and driving slowly near possible points where you’ll need to brake make a huge difference to fuel efficiency. There’s a lot of energy lost from unnecessary braking – you lose the car’s momentum and have to use up a lot of energy to get it moving again.

9. Highest gear

The higher gears use less fuel, so try to get into a high gear as soon as possible without ‘labouring’ the engine, or pushing it to warm up to a higher gear before it’s ready.

10. Don't start and stop

As far as you’re able, focus on smooth driving that prevents the need for braking.

11. Bad drivers

“After eight hours in a car, drivers can get distracted, tired and impatient, which means they start making bad decisions.” says Brendon. “ Be alert and don’t be that guy.”

Be prepared for delays and just relax – a road trip is all about the journey!

12.  Overtaking trucks

A necessary part of any road trip, overtaking trucks can be dangerous. Never try to overtake a truck on a blind rise, a double white line or a blind corner. Think ahead, put your car into a lower gear to prepare for the overtake, and be ready to pass as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

13. Avoid the long queues at rest rooms

Pack a little cooler box of delicious and healthy road trip snacks. Brendon says, “There are 400 other people who didn’t pack food and are trying to get something at the rest stop fast food outlet. Rather relax on the grassy patch some of the bigger petrol stations have and enjoy your packed lunch.”

14. Toll gates

You can save a lot of time if you arrive at each tollgate prepared with your cards or cash. Pick the line with the least cars – why wait and delay your trip when you don’t need to? Accelerate smoothly, but quickly, after the toll gate to save even more time.

15. Driving buddy

Find someone who seems to be going the same route as you, holding a steady speed. As Brendon says, “Consistency is key.” Instead of surging forward and speeding onwards, holding to a steady pace will get you there faster in the long run, and leads to better fuel consumption. Following a leader can also alert you to possible dangers on the road a few seconds earlier than you would notice if you were driving alone.  Just remember to keep a safe following distance.

16. Back up map

Don’t rely on your phone’s GPS to get you there – some parts of South Africa have very poor to nonexistent signal. Buy a map book for the car, or print out your route on Google Maps.

Following these 16 tips will ensure that you and your family enjoy a safe and cost effective road trip.

If you’d like some ideas to keep the family entertained for the entire drive, you can download the Family car games ebook which is jam packed with fun games to play in the car.

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