Does it seem that prices are rising higher each day, and your budget is struggling to keep up? Every time you pull into the gas station, the bill takes a bigger bite out of your bank account.
You’re not imagining it. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, gasoline prices have risen more than 60 percent in just one year.
That adds up as you’re spending more time in your car once again. If you’ve been dreading the winter months, knowing you’ll spend even more hours in your vehicle, it’s time to do what you can for better fuel efficiency.
Ice, snow, and cold weather can do more than impact the functionality of your car; it affects your fuel efficiency too. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency, your gas mileage falls as much as 15 percent when the temperatures drop to 20°F or lower when compared to sunshine days in the heart of the summer.
Luckily, there are easy ways to gain better fuel efficiency, and they won’t cost much on your part. A little bit of action now before the temperatures fall can make all the difference.
Change your motor oil
Motor oil is a lubricant to keep all the parts in your car’s engine compartment running smoothly. When you start your vehicle, motor oil rotates through the various parts, bringing them to life and keeping them fully operational.
Motor oil can thicken and become more viscous in cold winter months. While your engine is attempting to operate as usual, the motor oil is a bit more sluggish, meaning it works harder to get all the parts fully lubricated, preventing friction and protecting the transmission, axles, and other components from resisting.
Mechanics understand this, and often recommend and use different products at different times of the year. This is one more good reason to schedule an oil change now in the fall, before the snowflakes start to fly. Ensure you have fresh, clean motor oil ready to help you get better gas mileage all winter long.
Decrease idle time
How often have you headed out to your car early to let it “warm up” before you head into work? Many drivers assume it’s to help the car run better, when what it truly does is make the car warmer inside the passenger cabin. While your vehicle may need to sit a few seconds after starting it to let the motor oil circulate, anything more than 30 seconds is wasteful. What’s better for your vehicle is to spend the first five to ten minutes driving slowly, without putting pressure on the systems.
This also applies to other errands around town. As you’re waiting for kids to finish school, or for other family members to run in and pick things up, consider turning your car off if it’ll be more than a few minutes. Idling means you’re burning more fuel, which worsens your fuel efficiency.
Combine your errands
While your car’s dashboard doesn’t show how hot the engine gets under normal working conditions, manufacturers state that the average temperature for a car or truck engine ranges from 195 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. If the outside temperature hovers in the 60s or 70s, it takes a shorter time period to bring the engine up to temperature than if it’s hovering near zero.
That puts more stress on the engine as it has to work harder to bring it up to temperature. Instead of repeating this process multiple times during the day, consider consolidating your trips instead. Once the temperature has reached its ideal limit, it takes time to fall back down to outdoor temperature. For your in-and-out errands, this means the engine won’t have to fully warm up each time. As an added bonus, this can help with efficiency too, giving you more time to do the truly essential things in your life.
Adjust for winter gas blends
When you head to the gas station, you probably don’t give much thought to what gasoline is flowing into your car. You choose regular or premium based on your vehicle’s needs, and drive away. Federal law requires different fuel mixes based on what time of year it is. The Clean Air Act requires using oxygenated gasoline in areas where wintertime carbon monoxide levels exceed federal air quality standards. Without oxygenated fuel, carbon monoxide emissions tend to increase in the cold weather, decreasing your fuel efficiency.
While this may increase your frustration with winter driving, there is little you can do about it. Be aware of how it impacts the engine, and find ways to shorten your drive time to use less fuel overall.
Battery performance wanes
Most car battery manufacturers state you’ll get three to seven years of life from the battery. Of course, this is dependent on many things, including how you drive your car as well as the surrounding environment.
As a car battery begins to age, its performance can be compromised when under stress. Cold weather is just one of those stressors that can take its toll. That means the battery will have to work harder staying charged, while you attempt to operate more electrical parts such as window defrosters, seat warmers, and windshield wipers, trying to stay safe and warm.
If you know your battery is reaching the end of its life, at a minimum, have it checked and inspected before the cold settles in. A good mechanic can help you make an informed decision about the best time to replace your car battery and help you avoid walking out to a dead battery on a bitterly cold morning.
Worried about cold weather driving? Wondering how to get better fuel efficiency as gas prices continue to rise?
Get started by having a thorough inspection to ensure your car is in good working condition. This ensures you replace parts before they leave you stranded, and make decisions about upgrading components without having to do it in emergency situations.
How can we help you get better fuel efficiency this year?