Frigid temperatures, icy roads, and blowing snow can be hard on drivers’ nerves—and their vehicles—in the winter. When the mercury plunges, fuel efficiency can fall 20% or more and air pollution can increase.
Hybrids fare even worse—their fuel economy can drop over 30% in cold weather.
Follow these tips to increase your car’s wintertime fuel economy and reduce polluting emissions
Check your tires. Tires lose pressure when the temperature drops. Properly inflated tires improve gas mileage and prolong the life of the tire. Check your tire pressure at least monthly in the winter.
Maintain your vehicle. A well-maintained vehicle uses less fuel and pollutes less. According to the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, fixing a car that is out of tune can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%
Don’t idle. It’s not necessary or even advisable to warm vehicle engines more than 30 seconds in the winter. Most cars built in the last couple of decades have electronic fuel injection in place of carburetors and the engines warm up faster when they are moving. Vehicles should also be turned off when stopped for more than 10 seconds. After ten seconds, it takes more gas to idle than it does to restart the engine. An idling vehicle also creates more pollution than a moving one.
Combine trips. It takes longer in cold weather for your car to reach its most fuel-efficient operating temperature. Combine trips to help keep the engine warm and saves on gas. For optimum operating efficiency, make your longest stop your first stop. Consider using a GPS device or your phone to plan your route.
Remove junk from the trunk and clear snow and ice. Reducing weight increases your MPG and reduces vehicle pollution. Clear ice and snow, including in the wheel well area, to reduce vehicle weight and tire interference.
Remove drag. When not in use, remove roof racks and other accessories that increase wind resistance and decrease MPG.
Avoid peak travel times. This is good advice any time of the year, but especially in the winter when icy roads can slow traffic to a crawl.
Turn off seat warmers and defrosters. Use seat warmers and defrosters sparingly. You’ll get better MPG when they’re off.
Preheat the cabins of hybrid and electric vehicles. Preheating the car’s interior while it’s plugged into the charger can extend its range.
Don’t drive. Keep your car parked when the weather is bad. You’ll be safer and your vehicle will get better fuel efficiency if you wait to drive until the snowplows clear the roads. If permitted, work from home or take public transportation to your destination.