With a a handful of states in the U.S. and nearly all of Canada having temperatures below freezing right now, it may be a good time to highlight a little known secret: cold weather can rob you of fuel economy.
As if driving didn't already cost enough, some of us get to see the cost of driving go up every mile in cold weather. Whether it be snowy roads, freezing temperatures, warming up the car, or just about anything else- it's making your fuel economy tank! (READ MORE!)
First, every vehicle has an optimal operating temperature- the colder it is, the longer your vehicle takes to reach that point (think cold, thick fluids). In the mean time, your vehicle releases small amounts of unburned gasoline and operates much more inefficiently. If the temperature is 0°F (-17.8°C), and your vehicle is 6-cylinders, that could mean 15 minutes of driving before your vehicle is fully warmed and at its ideal operating temperature.
Second- in the cold climates, snow is also a reason for a loss in fuel economy. With the economy suffering, many states and cities are dealing with lower plow budgets, meaning that the roads will be snow-covered longer. This means your car must work harder to plow through the snow and get from point A to point B. This can result in a loss of 5-10% of your fuel economy. It's just another reason to stay inside when there's a snowstorm outside!
Third- the cold weather results in lower tire pressure, increasing rolling resistance, and lowering fuel economy by 3-6%. For every 10 degrees under freezing, your tire pressure likely falls one to two PSI. It would be a good idea to check your tires before the coldest weather hits and to adjust the pressure to specifications.
Make sure you plan your trips more carefully in the Winter as well. All those inefficient start-ups mean your car operates much more inefficiently for a longer period of time. If you make one trip with multiple destinations your car will stay warm, resulting in a quick return to operating temperature. If you spread out your trips over a few days, your car will operate for a longer time with lower fuel economy.
In the coldest of areas, a block heater may be a useful tool- not only to ensure a quick warm-up time, but to keep fluids thin and your car easy to start. This means the moment you start the car you're already near operating temperature.
Just remembering and utilizing these tips will save you dollars (in the cold climates) every time you pump gasoline this Winter!