How To Maximize Your Vehicle's Winter Fuel Economy

Whether you’re driving in the summer or winter, you want to maximize your vehicle’s gas mileage. Cold weather can reduce your vehicle’s fuel economy, though. Use these tips to maximize your gas mileage this winter.

Why does Winter Fuel Economy Fall?

When temperatures drop from 70 degrees F to 20 degrees F, your vehicle’s fuel economy can drop by as much as 12 percent. Short trips of less than four miles also cause a fuel economy loss of as much as 22 percent. If you drive a hybrid vehicle, you could experience a 34 percent drop in fuel economy.

These drops occur for several reasons.
  • The engine takes longer to reach a fuel-efficient temperature, a factor in fuel economy during shorter trips.
  • Idling reduces overall fuel economy.
  • Window defrosters, the heater fan and heated seats require extra power.
  • Tire pressure decreases, which increases your vehicle’s rolling resistance and reduces fuel economy.
  • Cold engine and transmission fluids increase friction.
  • Battery performance decreases and affects the battery charge.
  • Cold air and snow mounds on your vehicle create a higher aerodynamic drag as you drive at highway speeds.
  • Winter grade gasoline blends are lower in energy than summer grade gasoline blends.
  • Severe weather reduces tire grip and wastes energy, and slower but safer driving practices lower fuel economy.
How can you Improve Fuel Economy?

If possible, take several proactive steps that increase your vehicle's gas mileage.

  • Park in a garage or other warm location to increase your engine and cabin temperature and reduce the amount of time and effort required to warm the vehicle.
  • Allow your vehicle to idle for only 30 seconds. It will warm up almost two times faster and use less fuel as you drive.
  • Use defrosters and seat warmers only when necessary. An ice scraper and warmer clothing can help.
  • Choose winter tires with low resistance and keep them inflated to the proper pressure as you improve traction and fuel economy.
  • Use the cold weather oil recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
  • Charge your battery before winter at an automotive store, car dealer or your mechanic.
  • Remove accessories like the luggage or ski rack plus accumulated snow since these factors increase wind resistance and reduce your vehicle’s aerodynamics and fuel economy.
  • Toss sandbags into the trunk to increase traction.
  • Complete as many errands as possible in one trip. Also, check the traffic before your trip and avoid congested or slow areas.
This winter, your car may use more fuel than usual, but you can maximize your vehicle's fuel economy with these tips. For additional fuel economy and winter driving assistance, talk to your auto insurance agent.
Need insurance for You, Your Family or Your Business?
We can match you to a qualified, local insurance expert!
Further Reading
How many hours a week do you spend in your car, in the air or riding a bike, bus, train or ferry to work? The average commute is 25.5 minutes, so whether you drive, ride, walk or fly, your commute could total nearly five hours a week. Consider severa...
Life insurance gives you peace of mind since it can provide for the financial needs of your dependents after your death. The mature policy can also support a charity or fund a scholarship account at your alma mater. Maximize your life insurance polic...
Although the term “symbols” has many definitions, some of the most interesting ones are those on the “declarations page” of your commercial auto policy. This is the page that indicates all of the coverages you’ve purchased. In a column preceding each...
Summer’s here, and the cheerful sunshine and warmer temperatures make it easier to work out. You don’t want to spend all your free time exercising, though. Maximize every workout this summer to achieve the best results and have more time for other fu...
Prescription drugs keep you healthy and may save your life. While your employee benefits probably include a prescription drug benefit, medicines are expensive. Maximize your prescription coverage with 11 tips. 1. Advocate for generic bra...