On a summer road trip, you are likely to rely on your car's air conditioning much more than usual. However, if you're worried that overusing your air-conditioning is affecting your gas mileage, there are a number of ways you can run your car more efficiently in the heat, no matter where your road trip takes your family.
Prepare Your Car for the Drive
One of the best ways to ensure your car is able to stand up to the summer heat is to prepare your vehicle for a long, hot drive by taking it to your local mechanic at least a week before your trip. Ask if the air filter needs to replaced, as a clogged filter can decrease cold air output from the A/C. If you're heading on a trip that's over 1,000 miles, it may be a good idea to change the oil completely.
To make sure you're comfortable during your trip, clean your car out completely so that you aren't traveling with any trash (which might build up over the trip), and make sure the car is stocked properly with snacks, drinks, and a trash can as well as all of the necessary tools for an emergency on the road—car jack, tire iron, spare tire, first aid kit, et cetera.
Finally, before you and the whole family climb into the car to set out for your trip, let out the hot air trapped inside the car by rolling down all the windows completely; then, turn on the car, roll up the windows, and crank the air conditioning on max for a few minutes to quickly cool down the car completely.
Staying Cool While in Motion
When you're driving down the road, maintaining a comfortable temperature inside the car is fairly important, especially when traveling through hot climates like those of the southwestern United States.
If the temperature inside the car gets too cold, don’t switch the unit off—turning the air conditioning on and off is inefficient. Instead, adjust the temperature or fan speed to help keep the temperature consistent. Also, if you're too cold in the front seat but passengers aren't in the back seat, redirect your air conditioning vents to the side or ceiling of the car instead of turning them off to keep the air flowing.
While driving down the road, portable and adjustable car sun shades are the perfect way to block the sun from beaming down into your face—even in the back seat. You can also find a number of air-conditioned seat cushions that help keep your bare arms and legs from sticking to hot leather car interiors during your trip.
When you need to leave your car for a while to explore a tourist attraction or sit down for a meal outside of the car, make sure you park in the shade whenever possible and use a reflective windshield shade to block the summer sun from baking your car completely. These strategies can dramatically reduce heat buildup in a parked vehicle.