Winter driving can take quite a toll on your car (pun intended). Not only is it messy, slippery, and slow – it can also be very expensive.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that a drop in temperature from 24 degrees Celsius to 7 degrees Celsius can increase fuel consumption by 12% to 28%. And with snow, slush and ice on the road, your car works harder to get you where you need to go, meaning that you’re paying more at the pump during the winter than the summer. Even hybrid cars lose efficiency as temperatures drop below freezing.
Cold air is denser, which increases drag on your car and reduces gas mileage. Driving slow and diligently means more time spent on the road, and more gas being used. And of course, heaters and defrosters use additional power, leading to more fuel consumption.
But since avoiding winter weather isn’t really an option for Canadians, here are some ways to stretch your dollar this season, and save on gas for your car:
1. Inflate your tires regularly
Dense, cold air can cause your tires to lose pressure and resist rolling in slush or snow. As a result, your car is working harder to move through the snow. Check your tires' air pressure regularly and keep it at the level recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
2. Know there’s no need to “warm up”
Warming your car for five to 10 minutes to “get the engine going” has been a widespread custom for a long time. But the fact of the matter is that most cars nowadays don’t need to be warmed up for more than 30 seconds. Idle time just means more fuel consumption for zero mileage. Older cars may need longer, but no more than two or three minutes.
3. Get a winter tune up
This means making sure everything is running at peak efficiency to ensure the best mileage on your car, no matter the conditions. Have your mechanic take a look at your battery, check your wheel alignment, and change your oil.
4. Get all your errands done in one trip
Instead of making several short trips on various days, choose a block of time in one day and combine your errand trips into one. Plan out your itinerary to ensure you use the shortest route with the least amount of stops. This will help to keep your engine warmer and ultimately save gas.
5. Avoid carrying too much weight
Your engine uses more energy to move a heavy vehicle. Remove unnecessary items from the trunk, or external accessories like bike racks. Removing roof racks can also decrease wind resistance and reduce the amount of gas you use.
6. Drive carefully
This is a given, considering how unsafe winter road conditions can be. But either way, it’s important to note that aggressive driving and hard braking uses more gas. Keep a light foot and always adjust your speed to the conditions. If you can avoid driving until the roads have been cleared, you’ll probably save your car the trouble of having to exert extra energy to plough through.
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