Tips to keep you on the sunny side

Summertime driving seems so easy. Everyone looks forward to holidays and the long weekends for a typical road trip. But there are some obvious preparations all drivers should take prior to an extended trip.

– Tires: Tires are the only vehicle equipment that is in contact with the road surface. Make sure they are inflated to manufacturer’s specifications. Never deflate a tire when it is hot. Tire pressure is best measured and adjusted at cool temperatures. Balancing, aligning and visual inspection of the tires should all be done before the trip begins.

– Overheating: Vehicles are prone to overheating when temperatures soar. Long uphill terrain causes many vehicles to overheat. Transmission coolers are mandatory if you plan to tow a trailer or haul a camper. Everyone should run their vehicle with 100 per cent antifreeze all year round and have the radiator coolant changed each year. Always watch the dash symbols for signs of overheating, whether you have a warning light or a gauge. Gauges are much better warning devices because the driver can see the gradual increase in engine temperature and react more quickly to the situation by pulling over and turning the vehicle off. Warning lights often tell the driver of a problem when it is too late to take remedial action.

Some drivers will stop and throw water on the engine to cool it when overheating. This is not recommended. Engine blocks have been damaged when extremely cold water is used externally, to cool an engine. Many professional drivers know to turn the heater on full hot to divert heat from the engine and allow time to make it to a service station or rest area before serious overheating damages the engine.

Professionals also sometimes use an oil additive that allows their vehicles to run with no oil for at least 30 minutes and prevent engine damage, allowing them to reach a repair facility. Uninterrupted overheating will ruin an engine.

– Keeping cool: Many drivers underestimate the toll that air-conditioning takes on a vehicle. It can increase the fuel consumption by 33 per cent in some cases, particularly when the temperatures are over 30C. Drivers should use the air-conditioning at moderate speeds for the most efficient use of fuel on trips. The latest studies show that driving with the windows open will waste just as much fuel as driving with the air conditioning on full.

– Saving fuel: The speed at which a driver travels has a significant effect on mileage as well. A 10 km/h increase in speed would result in a 10 per cent reduction in fuel efficiency.

Using cruise control will often increase fuel efficiency on extended travel, particularly at speeds above 75 km/h. However, never use cruise control in the rain! The tires can hydroplane, when on cruise control, without the driver gaining the necessary feel for such an occurrence.

– Vision: It is a good idea to wear sunglasses when driving on bright sunny days. The sun visor should be used to help drivers and passengers see more clearly.

– Rest stops: On long trips it is a good idea to stop for a rest every 90 minutes when adults are in the vehicle. Any parent knows that small children require much more frequent stops.

– Health: If you are driving a convertible or have a sunroof, it is a good idea to apply sunscreen prior to the trip. However, drivers in enclosed vehicles don’t get off scot free: The most recent cancer studies show that left arm skin cancer is three times higher than right arm skin cancer in North America. The opposite is true in Britain and other right-hand drive countries. The practice of hanging an arm out the window is to blame.

Summer should be a pleasant and enjoyable time for everyone. Preparation can make it so much more enjoyable.

Steve Wallace is a longtime teacher and owner of the Wallace Driving School in Victoria.

Photograph by: Aaron Lynett, Canwest News Service