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Holiday travel: Car checkups boost gas mileage
Billion Patterson checks the oil level of a customer's car Wednesday afternoon at The Tire Barn as people prepare their vehicles for holiday weekend trips.
Snacks? Check. Music? Check. Directions? Check.

There are a lot of things that go into preparing for a road trip, so don’t forget to have your car checked out for any possible problems before you head out on the road for a Fourth of July getaway.

The Tire Barn on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was busy Wednesday with people getting their cars tuned up before the long weekend.

"There are a lot of people coming in who are going to be traveling over the holiday," said Bill Roper, co-owner of The Tire Barn. "With gas prices so high, everybody’s trying to get the best gas mileage."

He said simple maintenance can make a car more efficient, and one of the best ways to save gas is to make sure your tires have enough air.

"A tire that’s low of air has a lot more drag," he said.

Roper said it takes more gas to propel a car with tires that aren’t fully inflated. He compared driving a car without enough air in the tires to walking on sand.

Roper also recommended checking a car’s air filter. If the filter is dirty, he said, it will not allow enough air to get into the engine to mix with gasoline, causing the car to burn more gas.

Another simple way to save gas is to drive slower. Roper said it is more efficient to drive 65 mph than 80 mph because "the faster a car goes, the more resistant it is."

Roper recommended having your car checked out before a road trip because you could not only save gas but avoid the hassle of breaking down on the side of the road.

"Maintenance is the biggest thing you can do to avoid breakdowns," he said.

AAA predicts auto travel will be down 1.3 percent from 2007 because of the rising price of gasoline. Gas currently is hovering at about $4 per gallon.

"Gas is about $1.10 to $1.15 per gallon higher today than it was a year ago at this time," said AAA spokesman Gregg Laskoski.

Laskoski said AAA has heard a mix of travel plans, with some venturing farther out and others choosing to stay close to home.

"People are seeing their household budgets getting squeezed, they’re going to look for some other options," Laskoski said. "A great many people will choose to either travel closer to home or possibly do something else."

According to AAA, 8.7 million people in the Southeast will travel this Fourth of July weekend, the highest number of any region in the country.

"In this part of the country there’s a greater concentration of retirees. Many of the retirees in the Southeast have both the resources as well as the time and the flexibility to travel," Laskoski said. "Travel is usually very strong in the Southeast."

Laskoski predicted that tourist areas will see a lot more traffic from locals this year.

"We think a lot of local destinations are going to be able to capitalize on the fact that many of the people who are within a 100-mile or 150-mile radius will be interested in kind of rediscovering what’s in their own backyard," he said.

To avoid stressful situations, Laskoski suggests bringing a map, a charged cell phone, wearing a seat belt and leaving plenty of time to reach the destination.

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