Your Fuel Economy Suffers In Cold Temperatures
Conditions in winter put a significant strain on your car and on your driving. Winter can also put a strain on your fuel mileage. To prevent a decrease in your gas mileage you need to address some specific issues with regard to winter driving and your car.
The main characteristic of winter, cold temperatures, can increase your gas usage significantly. A car that is cold uses more gas at start up than a warm car. The lower the temperature the more gas a car has to use when it starts.
At cold temperatures, your car's engine is harder to start. The low temperature causes the oil in your car to thicken. This thicker oil requires more energy to get it moving. More energy is needed to move the engine parts that are lubricated by this thicker oil. Any time your car requires more energy means that it will require more fuel. Even after starting, your car will use more fuel until it fully warms up.
The engine is not the only part of your car affected by cold temperatures. The joints, transmission, bearings, brakes, and steering mechanisms all need more energy to move them in cold temperatures. They all depend upon some fluids to operate. Similar to engine oil, the fluids will be thicker in cold temperatures and will need more energy to move them. That also translates into burning more gas.
Many parts of your car will be stiff and may be frozen. Moisture from the air, from precipitation or from the road can freeze areas of the car. It will require extra energy to move them also. Suspension systems and wheel bearings, are some of the areas affected. As you might suspect more energy is required to move frozen parts and of course that means more fuel burned and a decrease in gas mileage.
The engine needs to overcome the cold oil in order to lubricate itself sufficiently. To facilitate that, it does require a little more idle time after starting. Be warned, it only needs about 30 seconds of idling, no more. Even that small amount of extra idling does contribute to reducing your gas mileage.
There are a number of actions you can take to lessen or eliminate the affects of cold on fuel economy. If at all possible, park your car in a heated garage. If a heated garage is not an option even a non heated garage is better than leaving your car outside. It may be time to clean out your garage to make room for your car.
Make sure you have the correct oil for your car. The correct oil will be less thick and will flow easier in cold weather. This will reduce the amount of energy necessary to start and operate a cold engine.
In extreme cold areas an engine block heater can be used. These heaters keep the engine and the oil warm eliminating the problem of cold oil. You have to plug engine heater into an electrical outlet and it needs to be plugged in any time the car will be sitting for a long time, like overnight.
One of the biggest gas wasters in winter is spending too much time warming your car before you drive it. You only need 30 seconds of idling to lubricate the engine at a cold start. Excessive idling longer than 30 seconds will rob you of fuel economy faster than anything else. Your car can complete the warm up as you are driving.
Although cold temperatures can greatly reduce gas mileage, you can minimize or eliminate it's affect. Just follow the simple steps outlined here and you can maintain good gas mileage.
by: Scott Siegel