Even though we don’t experience much extreme cold here in SoCal, we do get colder days every now and then and when they come along, your gas mileage might take a hit. Why is that? Check out our very scientific explanation below.
Why does cold weather hurt my fuel economy?
Any time the air temperature dips below 40°F, it affects your car in more ways than one. The engine and transmission friction increase because your motor oil gets colder. That in itself hurts your fuel efficiency, but what really has an impact is that your engine takes longer to get to its most efficient temperature. When you take a short drive in the cold, your engine is working hard to warm up and it likely doesn’t even get to the ideal temperature and uses more fuel in an attempt to heat up. Also, cold air is denser than warm air. That means there is more aerodynamic drag on your vehicle, especially at higher speeds. Even things that may seem trivial like heated seats and defrosters use extra power and that can negatively impact your gas mileage. So, yeah, the wintertime is not good for your fuel economy. But surely there are things you can do to combat these problems… right?
How can I help my gas mileage in the cold?
Keeping your car parked inside overnight will help keep its initial engine temperature a little higher, resulting in less time to warm up. While letting your car run before you leave will warm it up, it also wastes gas. Avoid idling as much as possible. You should also check your tire pressure regularly, especially in the winter, as underinflated tires can hinder your gas mileage.