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Cold Temperatures Lower Your Fuel Economy

Feb 25, 2008
Winter conditions put a tremendous strain on your car and on your driving. Winter also puts a strain on your fuel economy. In order to prevent a decrease in your fuel economy you need to be aware of some specific issues with regard to your car and your driving in the winter.

One of the two main characteristics of winter, cold temperatures, create conditions that lower your fuel economy. A car that is cold uses more fuel to start up than a warm car. The colder the car the more fuel it uses when it starts.

In cold weather, the engine of your car is harder to start. The oil in your car is thicker when it is cold and thus requires more energy to get it flowing. All the parts that are lubricated by this thicker oil require more energy to move them. More energy means that it will take more fuel to move the parts. Your engine will use more fuel to run until it warms up.

Cold temperatures also effect other parts of your car. The bearings, joints, transmission, power assisted brakes, and steering mechanisms will all require more energy to move them when they are cold. These mechanisms all depend on some fluids to operate. Like the engine oil these fluids will be thicker in cold weather and will require more energy to move them. Again that translates into more gas.

Other parts of your car will be stiff and may be frozen. Moisture in the air can condense and freeze on many car parts. Water from precipitation or from the road may have frozen on to part of the car. It will take more energy to move these parts. Wheel bearings, suspension systems and wheels themselves are some of the parts effected. The same applies, more energy needed to move these parts translates into more fuel burned and lower gas mileage.

Since your engine needs to overcome some temperature issues to lubricate itself in the cold you do need to give it a little longer to idle after starting than you would in the summer. But, I have to stress this, it only needs about 30 seconds of idling, no more. That little extra idling does affect your gas mileage.

Some things you can do to mitigate the affects of cold on gas mileage are: Park your car in a heated garage if available. Even a non heated garage may be warmer than leaving your car outside. It may be time to get rid of all the boxes in your garage and make room for your car.

Make sure you are using an oil that is recommended for your car in cold temperatures. The proper oil will flow better in cold weather thus reducing the amount of energy needed to start and run a cold engine.

In extreme cold climates an engine block heater will help keep the engine and oil warm thus avoiding a complete cold start. You will need a way to plug it in and keep it plugged in until you are ready to drive.

Don't wast fuel warming your car when you start it. You only need about 30 seconds of idling to make sure the oil is flowing sufficiently in the engine. Excessive idling beyond 30 seconds will rob you of gas mileage faster than anything else. Let the car continue to warm up as you are driving.

Although winter and the cold temperatures that it brings can greatly reduce fuel economy you can minimize it's affect. If you follow the simple steps outlined you can keep your gas mileage up at the level it should be.
About the Author
Scott Siegel is the author of a 143 page manual of industry insider information
on saving gas and money at the pump (beatthegaspump.com). Visit us to learn how
you can get better gas mileage.
Find out how to increase gas
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