'Car Doctor' offers tips for safe traveling this holiday season

The holidays are sneaking up on us. With Thanksgiving just over two weeks away and Christmas not far behind, it’s not too early to start thinking about shopping smart and traveling economically. As thousands will be opting to take to the road instead of the air for their annual visit to see family and friends, Joel Burrows, a.k.a. “The Car Doctor” and vice president of training/R&D at Precision Tune Auto Care, has timely advice to help commuters save money at the gas pumps.

1. Keep tires properly inflated (recommended air pressure is posted on the driver’s door or in the glove compartment). Under-inflated tires cause drag: over-inflation causes improper tire-to-road contact. Both conditions will result in abnormal wear.

2. Plan your day. Limit trips by running all errands at the same time or on your way to or from work.

3. Have a certified technician perform an engine and emissions analysis to ensure that the engine is running at maximum efficiency.

4. Avoid making quick starts or stops. To avoid jamming on brakes, stay a safe distance from the car in front of you. When possible, slow down simply by taking your foot off the gas.

5. Maintain steady speeds; use cruise control on the open road.

6. If you are in warm climates, do NOT use your air conditioner when driving in the city. DO use your air conditioner on the open road rather than keeping windows open. (Open windows create wind drag, straining the engine.)

7. Use proper octane fuel. Higher-octane gas, which produces less energy, not only costs more, it also yields lower miles per gallon.

8. Don’t let the engine idle more than a minute or two. This is extremely important on cold morning start-ups.

9. Today’s vehicles run on a fine film of fluids. Make sure you service all fluids on a regular basis and in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Engine oil level should be checked at every fill-up.

10. Use over-drive gear for highway driving.

For added peace of mind, The Car Doctor suggests an engine and emissions analysis to ensure there are no problems and that the engine is running at maximum efficiency. This, too, helps reduce your fuel bill. And for safety he recommends bringing a cell phone and road map.