Cold weather can be a nuisance, especially when driving. Road conditions worsen and the low temperatures force your car to work harder than normal. Additionally, batteries struggle to maintain a steady charge in colder weather. This all leads to you getting worse gas mileage. However, there are many ways you can fight the elements and maintain your gas mileage. Here are a few easy ways to keep your car running smoothly throughout the winter.
- Drive slower: Cold weather brings potentially hazardous road conditions and less daylight, which make driving more dangerous than normal. The U.S. Department of Energy reports aggressive acceleration and braking can hurt your gas mileage by about 5 percent at low speeds and as much as 33 percent on highways.
- Lighten the load: One of the easiest ways to improve your car's fuel economy is to reduce the amount of weight the car needs to tow. Removing 100 pounds from your car can boost your miles per gallon by 2 percent. Take the time to scrape snow off your roof and remove any unnecessary items from inside your car. Be sure to take off any roof storage or bike racks whenever possible, as these items weigh down the car and increase wind drag. When cleaning out your car, remember to leave a few emergency items including an ice scraper, warm clothes and a blanket, a flashlight, water and a snack, a spare tire and jumper cables.
- Keep your distance: Giving cars ahead of you extra space will allow you to coast to stops, saving gas and brake power. On slick roads, it is especially important to give yourself distance in case your tires struggle to gain traction while braking.
- Get the right tires: If you live in a particularly snowy area, purchasing snow tires will improve your car's traction and maneuverability. However, these tires hurt gas mileage because their tread patterns increase road resistance, especially once roads are cleared. There are a variety of snow tire options, so if you live in an area with sporadic snowfall look for tires that balance traction with fuel efficiency.
- Minimize idling: For most, icy windshields are an inevitable part of winter. Many drivers have the bad habit of warming up their engine, windshield and interior before driving. Scraping off the ice isn't glamorous, but can help you save the gas wasted by waiting for your car's heater to melt it off. According to the Energy Department, idling can use a quarter to half a gallon of fuel per hour, so scrape off as much ice as you can before starting your engine.
- Check tire pressure: Tire pressure decreases over time, and that process is accelerated by drops in temperature. An underinflated tire increases road friction, making the engine work harder and burn more fuel. According to the Energy Department, properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by about 3 percent, saving you approximately 10 cents per gallon at the pump.
During the winter, even the most efficiency conscious drivers will see some decrease in gas mileage. By taking a few extra measures you can offset some of this lost fuel economy, while staying safe on the road.