Cold weather can impact your vehicle in many ways. One such way your vehicle is impacted by cold weather, that is often not thought about, is how it affects your fuel efficiency.

According to, at 20 degrees, a traditional vehicle will be about 12 percent less efficient than it is at 77 degrees. That number can increase to 22 percent for trips that are very short, around three to four miles. If you drive a hybrid car, the fuel efficiency drops between 31 and 34 percent at such lowered temperatures.

There are many reasons behind the change in fuel economy in the colder months, including:

  • Cold engine oil and other fluids increase engine and transmission friction
  • Your engine takes longer to reach a fuel-efficient temperature
  • Warming your vehicle before travel lowers fuel economy
  • Rolling resistance increases as tire pressure decreases in cooler temperatures
  • Heated seats, heater fans, and window defrosters use extra power
  • Cold air is denser which increases the aerodynamic drag on your vehicle
  • The battery doesn’t perform as well in cold weather, which makes it more difficult for the alternator to keep the battery charged
  • Winter grade gasoline is different from summer grade gasoline. During the cold months, gasoline usually has heavier components to help lower the freezing point. This altered solution results in more additives in the gas, and in fewer miles per gallon
  • Using four-wheel drive uses more fuel

The good news is that there are things you can do to help remedy many of these situations and help you to improve your fuel efficiency in cold weather.

To get the most from your gallon of gas during these cold months, follow this advice:

  • Increase the initial temperature of your vehicle’s engine and cabin by parking in a warm location, like a garage.
  • Don’t allow your vehicle to idle for more than 30 to 60 seconds, anything more is going to take a toll on your gas mileage. Your vehicle will warm up faster when it’s in motion.
  • According to, when they’re used to run a quick errand, a vehicle is likely performing at its worst for the entire trip as the engine does not have time to warm to fuel efficient levels. Avoid short trips as much as possible by combining trips.
  • Check your tire pressure weekly in the cold months. Tire pressure that is too low or too high reduces fuel economy and negatively effects traction making it dangerous to drive in inclement weather conditions.
  • Avoid excessive use of defrosters and seat warmers. The extra power they take lowers your fuel economy.
  • As stated above, cold air is denser, making your vehicle less aerodynamic. Remove accessories, like roof racks, that increase wind resistance when they aren’t in use. Making sure all snow is removed from the roof will also help with this.
  • Use the type of oil that is recommended by your vehicle manufacturer for cold weather driving.
  • Prepare your vehicle for winter weather conditions with a full inspection.

Even if you only use a couple of these tips, it will surprise you how much gas you can save.

If you would like help preparing your vehicle for cold weather, visit the professionals at Meridian Automotive. We provide complete automotive repair in Meridian, Idaho, for most cars, light trucks, and SUV’s. For over 20 years we’ve been Meridian’s auto repair experts. Don’t just trust anyone with your automotive repair needs, trust the experts at Meridian Automotive. Call us today (208) 297-5573 or schedule an appointment online.

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