BY CHERYL TAY
When I was younger, my family used to drive up North for every school vacation without fail. We frequented Kuala Lumpur, but also drove to other parts of Malaysia like Malacca, Ipoh and Penang. Referred to as a self-drive holiday, there are some handy tips which you can keep in mind regardless of wherever you drive yourself to — whether it’s to nearby Malaysia or somewhere in the mountains of Switzerland.
Global oil and gas company Shell has recently launched a 13-week campaign that rewards with holidays to four destinations, along with a list of self-drive travel trips to help the independent road traveller save fuel on their drives.
Combining their list with some tips of my own from my previous self-drive experiences, here are some things to remember when you drive yourself for a holiday:
1. Know where you are going
Obviously, everyone on the trip knows where they are going, but it would be good to share the exact route and details of the self-drive itinerary with all passengers. Shell’s advice is to plan the journey in advance and have a well-planned self-drive itinerary that outlines the various pit-stops and petrol stations so you can coordinate your refuelling and driving breaks. This will aid in cutting down on the total time spent in the car navigating an unfamiliar location — which helps to conserve fuel, too.
2. Choose a reliable car and prepare it well
The worst thing that could happen to you is having your car fail you halfway through your journey. As Shell said, “Select the right car and ensure it is ready for long-haul driving.” It is important that you choose the right car — one that is comfortable to host all your passengers and luggage and also one that will not cause you too much inconvenience when you drive.
Before you set off on your holiday, check when the last time the car was serviced. If it was some time back, maybe you would want to bring it down to your workshop and just do some checks like inspecting the engine and the air filters to make sure they are clean. These help to improve fuel economy too.
At regular intervals on your journey, check your tyre pressure to make sure that they are correctly inflated for safety, reliability and also fuel-saving reasons. A tyre under-inflated by just 10 per cent can reduce fuel economy!
Part of preparing the car also includes clearing out unnecessary items from the cabin. This will maximise space for your passengers’ comfort and luggage. Also, lightening the car’s load and getting rid of excess weight will help your fuel efficiency.
You might want to create a check list of items to ensure you have everything such as the road safety warning triangle or jumpstart cables in the event of a breakdown.
2. Please get a GPS
Some cars might already have a pre-installed satellite navigation system, but if yours does not then do borrow or purchase a portable Global Positioning System (GPS) that you can mount onto the windscreen (The SITEX show is in town next week if you want to browse for one). But make sure that it is working, so take some time to drive around and familiarise yourself with it. You would not want to get yourself worked up in the car, fiddling with the device and trying to get it to work. Double check that the maps you need are loaded on the GPS (some sets already come with pre-loaded maps of Singapore and Malaysia) and also that they are the latest maps.
Shell suggests having a GPS, too, as it will help to reduce the need to stop and ask for directions. This in turn maximises your time on the move and avoids excessive idling in the car which saves fuel. Idling burns fuel so turn the engine off if you stop for more than 10 seconds.
For added precaution, bring a road map and a pocket translation guidebook of the foreign land that you are visiting.
3. All the small things matter.
Here are some little items that go a long way to benefit your self-drive holiday:
• Loose change
If your road trip includes journeys on motorways and expressways, chances are you would encounter tolls so prepare coins and small currency notes. If you are driving to Malaysia, borrow or get a Touch ‘n Go prepaid card (similar to our Cashcard) as there are dedicated Touch ‘n Go lanes at the tolls which will help you to save time and beat the queues.
• Sun protectors
Drivers and front passengers might want to bring a ready supply of sunblock and also a pair of sunglasses. This will reduce squinting and improve vision, hence increasing driver safety. Also, this protects the skin from harmful UV rays and ugly tan lines.
• Personalised music
Bring your auxiliary jack so you can connect your music devices to the car audio and be entertained by your own mix of tunes. If your car does not have this feature, then burn some CDs with your own compilations.
• Plastic bags
Bring along plastic bags that you can use as thrash bags (do not throw rubbish out of the window when the car is on the move) or vomit bags for instances of motion sickness. This keeps the car clean.
Have some drinks and snacks in the car in case anyone gets hungry or thirsty. Sometimes the next rest stop might be a distance away and some children cannot wait that long.
• Slippers or sandals
Mostly for your comfort so you can take them off easily in the car, wear a pair of slippers. It also helps you to get them on quickly when you are rushing for the toilet at a stop.
4. Create a driving roster
If there is more than one person in the car who can drive and is confident enough to drive on foreign roads, then pre-plan a driving schedule of some sort and take turns at the wheel. This can be tied in with your breaks, so driver switches can be done then. This helps the driver at the wheel to stay fresh and alert! When it is not your turn to drive or if you are not driving at all, you can choose to catch some shut-eye, but the passenger in the front next to the driver should preferably stay awake to assist the driver, like looking out for road signs or preparing change for the tolls.
5. Adopt a fuel-saving driving style
The bulk of saving fuel lies in the driver — his driving style and behaviour can make a huge difference the amount of fuel consumed. Shell gives some driving tips to help you save fuel:
• Adhere to speed limits as driving at high speeds means more wind resistance which forces you to consume more fuel
• Use cruise control on major roads to maintain a constant speed
• Drive smoothly as aggressive driving can take up as much as a third more fuel
• Avoid accelerating or braking too hard
• Keep steering as smooth as possible
• Use higher gears as the higher the gear, the lower the engine speed and hence less work on the engine and less fuel used
• Change gear in good time when you pull away or when you’re accelerating
• Avoid over revving and never ‘redline’ the rev counter
• Conserve momentum, such as slowing down early to let traffic lights change rather than stop completely, or speeding up a little before you reach the foot of a hill.
• Keep your distance from the car ahead so you have ample time to brake evenly
*This was first published on Yahoo!