With winter right around the corner, you might be excited to drink hot chocolate, build snowmen, and visit your in-laws for the holidays (well, maybe not that last part). One aspect of the season that isn’t exciting, however, is getting lower fuel economy as the temperatures drop.
Fuel prices reached record highs this year, and although prices have dropped nationwide on average, some areas are still paying over $6 per gallon for gasoline. The dip in fuel economy that comes with winter weather further adds insult to injury.
Cold weather reduces fuel economy in several ways, such as causing your vehicle to take longer to reach the optimum operating temperature. According to fueleconomy.gov, a traditional (non-hybrid) car can see a decrease in fuel mileage of up to 24% during the winter.
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help offset the adverse effects of Old Man Winter, as we’ll discuss below.
Tips for Reducing Fuel Consumption During the Winter
It’s smart to do everything possible to maximize fuel economy (and keep more money in your pocket) this winter. Here are a few tips that can help.
1. Limit Engine Warm-Up Time
Several decades ago, when cars had carburetors, warming the engine up before driving was essential during the winter. But vehicles have had fuel injection since the 1980s, and fuel-injected engines don’t require the same warm-up procedure.
Fueleconomy.gov recommends warming up your car’s engine for approximately 30 seconds before driving off gently. Comfort and visibility are the only reasons to warm the engine up longer.
If you can tough it out by clearing the windows with an ice scraper and wearing a coat until the engine is warm and heat is available, you’ll save fuel along the way.
2. Keep a Close Eye on Tire Pressure
We know checking your car’s tire pressure is the last thing you want to do when it’s bitter cold outside. But it’s important to do so, as tire pressure drops approximately 1-2 psi for every 10-degree dip in ambient temperature. The lower inflation pressure causes an increase in rolling resistance, leading to a reduction in fuel economy.
So, be brave, put on your long johns, and venture outside to check your car’s tire pressure. Most experts recommend checking the pressure every 1-2 weeks during the winter.
3. Get Rid of Unnecessary Baggage
No, we’re not talking about your ex here. We’re talking about the stuff in your trunk that you’ve been dragging around, including the winter essentials you’ll never use (do you really need to carry around a dozen extra parkas?). Less weight equals a reduction in energy expenditure and an increase in fuel economy.
4. Drive Responsibly and Intelligently
Being responsible and intelligent behind the wheel is one of the best ways to improve fuel economy during any season. To maximize gas mileage, avoid aggressive passes, hard acceleration, and slamming on the brakes.
Experts agree that it’s best to accelerate and stop smoothly. Plus, driving any other way during the winter is dangerous since the roads are often covered in snow and ice.
5. Use a Block Heater
When it’s really cold outside, your car’s engine takes a long time to reach operating temperature. Not only is that extended warm-up period uncomfortable for you—because the heater takes a while to kick in—but it also increases fuel consumption.
Because your vehicle requires more fuel when the engine is cold, using a block heater can provide a slight bump in fuel economy. A block heater pre-warms your engine somewhat so that your vehicle doesn’t take as long to reach operating temperature.
6. Park in the Garage if Possible
Much like you, your car prefers to be tucked away somewhere warm during the winter. If you’ve got a garage, keeping your vehicle inside will reduce the time it takes for the engine to reach operating temperature. You’ll also avoid the hassle of having to use an ice scraper first thing in the morning, which is a huge perk.
7. Fill Up Completely
When you stop for gas, it’s best to fill the tank up completely. Having to make extra stops to refuel wastes gas because you deviate from your intended course.
Plus, who wants to make more stops during the winter? Even the best gas station coffee isn’t worth exiting your car when it’s snowing outside.
Make Sure Your Car is Ready for Winter
If you want to save at the pump this winter, the first step is to ensure your car is in tip-top shape. There are many issues—ranging from dragging brakes to a dirty air filter—that can reduce gas mileage.
You can take care of necessary repairs or maintenance by shopping the wide selection of parts available from CarParts.com!
Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.