This has been another peculiar winter in Virginia – if we can even call it a winter….maybe just a ‘cold season?’ I pulled into the driveway last week and saw my crocuses already in bloom. Next will be the daffodils. It’s impossible not to start thinking about spring and summer travel and pulling the travel trailer out and getting it ready for some great family adventures. ( didn’t we just winterize? )
At the same time, it’s also hard not to worry a bit about the expense of it all this year. Gas prices have risen about 39 cents in just a month, and they’re predicted to continue to rise another 20-50 cents into the summer – yikes! We all know how much gas it takes to fill the tank of an SUV or truck pulling our travel trailer. We have two options facing these high gas prices: stay at home, turn on the travel channel and pretend we’re there, or follow good fuel savings methods and hit the road. I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried the first option before, and it’s kind of a bummer – even with an umbrella drink in your hand.
So let’s take a look at some ways to save gas while towing your travel trailer. (If you want to grab an umbrella drink before I get started, no problem – I’ll wait.)
First, if you haven’t purchased your trailer yet, when you come into Safford RV, make sure the trailer you purchase has a belly pan. Many manufactures have been cutting weight, and they cut it by removing the belly pan. Undercarriage drag will significantly reduce your gas mileage. Then, just inspect your trailer for drag in general. Look carefully at what you have on the roof — square and boxy items increase drag. Maybe you can install an air foil in front of an older AC unit, if you have one — or better yet, replace it with a modern efficient one.
Get Rid of Extra Weight
No, this does not mean you can leave you wife at home, Mr. B. Unload your travel trailer and lay out everything you carry with you. Don’t forget the compartments below. They are often filled with things you really don’t need. Put back only the items you’ll use for one camping trip. You’re often carrying around four seasons worth of clothing, games that you never play anymore, kitchen supplies that you haven’t touched in years, etc. Repeat this same exercise on your tow vehicle and eliminate those items you do not need.
Next lay out all of the items you pack for each camping trip. This includes the bikes you strap to the rear of your trailer, the scooby-doo fishing pole your 16-year-old son no longer uses and those extra lawn chairs. Carefully decide what is absolutely needed, remembering that each pound requires more fuel.
Manage Weight Distribution & Sway Control
If you don’t have weight distribution and sway control installed on your hitch, get it. Even if you don’t notice any sway, your trailer is not pulling directly behind you without sway control, and it’s costing you money. Your tow vehicle is constantly having to work harder to keep your trailer straight. Weight distribution distributes the weight of your trailer among all of the axles reducing the weight burden on the tow vehicle. These two items will not only save you fuel but increase your safety while towing.
Maintain Your Vehicle
We’re all very careful about maintaining our RV or travel trailer, but DO NOT forget about your tow vehicle! It too, must be in top mechanical condition. Have it inspected and don’t forget the emissions systems. A bad oxygen sensor will negate everything else you are doing. Inflate your tires, tow vehicle and trailer, to the maximum pressure allowed. Inspect the tires, and if they need to be replaced, replace them. Tires with poor tread, poor alignment, or that are badly balanced will reduce fuel economy.
Driving habits effect fuel mileage. Slow down to 55 on the interstate and highway. If you have cruise control use it. Learn to use your tachometer. You can keep your vehicle at the same RPM while climbing hills and not lose speed by overriding the cruise control and using the gas pedal. Remember – you are on a relaxing family vacation, not shooting the remake of ‘The Long, Long Trailer.’
Shut off your engine when stopping for more than thirty seconds. Avoid quick starts and anticipate stop lights by slowing down before you reach the red light. Utilize the old adage that you drive as if there is an egg between your foot and the gas pedal.
Reduce AC Usage
Use your air-conditioner for comfort. If possible turn it off and open the windows while driving in city traffic. Utilize your fresh air vents and your fan to ventilate the vehicle on the highway. Using an air-conditioner can reduce your mileage by one mile per gallon. This is significant when you are only getting a few miles per gallon to begin with.
Use your GPS to Cut Down on Miles
Finally, carefully plan your route and use a GPS. My favorite is the RV GPS Navigation System with Lifetime Maps. Once you have it, you won’t believe you ever traveled without it. You can get to your destination in the fastest or shortest way ( thus saving gas! ) and then explore and wander when you get there – either by foot, or in your SUV.
Don’t get me wrong – I do love the Travel Channel – but we don’t need to let a little obstacle like gas prices get in the way of doing what we love. We just have to be a little more conscientious about a few things so that we can be travelers – not just watchers.