Feel like you’re spending more time at the gas station these past months? It’s not your imagination! Along with the dip in winter temperatures, the fuel efficiency of our cars drops during colder months. Tests show that when temps fall from about 77°F to 20°F, a car’s gas mileage drops by nearly 12 percent. And hybrid cars fare even worse, showing a 31 to 34 percent drop in performance when the temperatures are low.
Here are a few simple things you can do (and other things you should avoid) to ensure that your vehicle runs more efficiently this winter. They’ll also save energy and guarantee you’ll spend less time shivering at the gas pump.
- Check Your Tire Pressure: Every time the temperature drops by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, your tire pressure will drop by about 1 psi, and for every 1 psi drop in pressure, your vehicle’s fuel economy declines about 0.4 percent. Note that it’s quite dangerous to drive with under-inflated tires, as you increase your risk of skidding or a tire blowout. Each month, check your tire pressure in the morning – when tires are cold – for a more accurate reading.
- Park in the Garage: Aside from the fact that you won’t spend those extra (bone chilling) minutes out in the elements, brushing snow and ice off your windshield, parking your car in your (warmer) garage will also increase its fuel efficiency and keep the interior of the car warmer, too. When temperatures drop, engine fluids thicken and use more energy to thin out and lubricate engine parts. Park your car in a garage and you’ll see fewer runs to the pump and your car’s engine will be better maintained.
- Don’t Warm Up Your Car: Don’t buy into the old adage that a car’s engine needs to “warm up” before driving. Idling a vehicle isn’t an effective way to warm up the engine, tires or passengers. Instead, get going, but slowly and carefully. The car’s engine warms up faster when driven, which saves fuel and allows the heating to kick in sooner. Plus, if you’re not idling, you’ll decrease emissions.
- Unpack Your Trunk: This is a fuel saver no matter the season. The more weight/cargo you carry, the harder the car works to get moving. Take out unnecessary items you’ve been toting in your backseat or trunk and see better fuel efficiency.
- Remove Snow and Accessories: Don’t feel like scraping the snow off your car’s roof? Too much effort to remove the ski rack from your trip to the mountains last weekend? Get to work taking off the extra gear and getting rid of the snow and ice – these things make your car less aerodynamic and decrease your fuel efficiency – and watch your miles per gallon increase!