Safety and fuel efficiency depend on several factors that are not always directly related to the equipment of a car. Often even the seemingly most insignificant behaviours are the ones that can greatly influence these two factors. Like distributing the load inside a car when you set off on holiday or more simply after the weekly grocery shop at the shopping centre. Tossing bags and packages into the boot in a hurry to leave may save you a few minutes but taking your time to arrange the various items cleverly will ensure a much safer drive and have positive implications on the budget as well.
The heaviest in the middle
Obviously, loading a compact car can be trickier but some general guidelines apply to city cars, station wagons and everything in between without distinction. The first rule to bear in mind is that the heavier objects should be placed as close to the rear seatback as possible. The aim is, of course, to concentrate the weight towards the middle and in all cases between the two axles to avoid compromising stability when cornering and braking. In addition to being arranged near the centre, the heavier objects must also be arranged directly on the floor and not on top of other things to avoid raising the centre of gravity of the vehicle. If not all the seats are occupied, folding away the ones not in use by passengers will give you more loading capacity and favour a more correct weight distribution.
Watch the height. Inside and out
Exploiting every available inch can prove to be a complex mission and in some cases lead to filling the passenger compartment up to the roof. In this case, the lighter suitcases positioned on top must be firmly anchored to prevent them from slipping forwards when braking and turn into dangerous projectiles. The same applies to all luggage that cannot be stowed inside and ends up on the roof rack. If not placed in a closed container, it must be anchored to the rack with sturdy straps, better if equipped with snap-on fastening systems. Remember to check that the fastening has not come undone at regular intervals. As a final recommendation, be careful when driving under low bridges or boarding a ferry if you have objects on the roof that significantly raise the height of the vehicle, such as bicycles, to avoid damage.
Hardshell suitcases? Yes, but only a few.
In case of a longer holiday that can sometimes take on the features of a mini-relocation, it can be a good idea not to use only hardshell suitcases. They are tougher but certainly not easy to fit together. Choose a few large ones and complete the load with more compact, soft bags that are easier to squeeze into any free gaps.
Expect the unexpected
Finally, when it comes to loading luggage you need to take unexpected circumstances into account, as the risk of puncturing a tyre. This now unlikely event can quickly turn into a nightmare if it happens during a journey to a fully-loaded car. The equipment you need to solve the problem is often housed in a compartment under the boot floor which is impossible to reach with all the luggage piled up on top of it. This is why it could be a good idea to remove the equipment from the compartment and place it in a more easily accessible place so you do not need to empty the boot in case of need. While finding a handy spot for the canister or compressor is a relatively simple task, rearranging a spare wheel, even of the space-saver type, can prove a little more complicated. In any case, remember that if you get a puncture you will also need the wrench to undo the bolts on the hub and the jack to lift the car.