The painful chill of the frigid, steel pump handle pierced my skin and froze me clean to the bone! “How do people survive this year in and year out?” I wondered as my teeth chattered. This southern boy had just made the move from Atlanta to Chicago and was experiencing the first of what was to be many gas fill-ups in the middle of a Midwest winter. From that moment on, my goal was to get as much mileage out of each tank as possible, in a desperate effort to have as few of those experiences as possible.
Now that I (thankfully) reside in Las Vegas and my two Chicago winters are in the rear view mirror, I don’t experience cold fill-ups the way I used to. But, for you battle-hardened Midwest winter warriors or for those of us who just want to make our vehicles more fuel-efficient this winter, several ways exist to use fuel more efficiently during this frigid time of year.
According to a Department of Energy study, vehicle fuel efficiency drops right at 12% when mercury falls from 77°F to 20°F. On shorter trips, it can drop as much as 22%, and a hybrid? Forget it…31 to 34%. We are not just here to sell you the best absorbent known to man, we also want to help you get the most out of your vehicle and the fuel used to keep all cylinders firing, so we’ve compiled a list of steps you can take to regain some of that 12% lost during the winter months. Read on to learn more!
Keep a Check on Your Tire Pressure
Cold winter air can significantly reduce the amount of air in your tires. Lower than recommended tire pressure may increase your grip on a snow-covered road, but that snow will either be plowed away or melt. Once the rubber is again meeting the road, you could find yourself driving at highway speeds with tire pressure below the recommended PSI, which will not only return fewer miles per gallon, it will eventually cause premature or uneven tire wear and could put your safety at risk. The best way to maximize your gas mileage is by keeping the tires properly inflated as recommended by the vehicle and/or tire manufacturer.
PRO TIP: Before adding air to your tires, give that tiny metal pin a push in order to release some air. Doing so will clear out any moisture buildup inside of the valve. Frozen valves = no bueno.
Avoid Excessive Idling
Most people don’t realize that 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than actually restarting your engine. “Warming up” a vehicle can rob you of some MPGs and for most cars, actual driving is far more effective in bringing your engine up to operating temperature, and warming up your fingers and toes, than letting it idle to warm it up. If you must idle your car in the morning, be sure the cooling system works as it should. Believe it or not engines can still overheat in the most frigid temperatures and if something were to go awry with your cooling system, you could find yourself standing in the elements waiting to have your car towed to a mechanic who may have to bear some really bad news.
Be Mindful of How Much Weight You Are Carrying
If you are trying to reduce the amount of gas your vehicle uses, be mindful of how much weight you are hauling. Studies show that for every one-percent the rolling weight increases, your vehicle will lose half a percent of fuel efficiency. Half a percent may not seem significant, but over time, it adds up. Removing equipment like bike racks when they are not in use, as well as snow build-up and keeping heavy items out of all cargo space can save you some bone-chilling time at the pump.
“Fill Up Your Gas Tank Early in the Morning.” Or don’t.
It is an unsubstantiated rumor that colder weather delivers more bang for the buck at the pump. Here’s the reasoning: All fluids contract in the cold making them more dense. Following this line of reasoning, filling up your tank early in the morning or late at night, when temps are typically lowest, saves money by delivering more gas molecules to your tank. If this is true, it also stands to reason that as solar heat raises the temperature during the day, gasoline expands, meaning fewer molecules delivered to the tank. If this rings true to you, have at it. Fill that tank up when it’s coldest. As for me, when I see the needle heading “E” when winter night is upon us, my heart sinks as my mind travels back to that first fill-up in Chicago. Until this myth is confirmed, I’ll gladly trade some MPGs for some warmth!
About the Author: Trent Whatcott is the Director of Marketing for SpillVak, who is breathlessly smitten by anything with wheels. His first car was a 1960 Volkswagen Type 1 Ragtop, that he built with a longtime family friend. Currently, when he’s not driving the minivan for various kiddie carpools, he drives a Chevrolet Silverado Z71. Trent’s dream car is a Mazda Miata that has been given the complete Flyin’ Miata LS3 treatment. When Trent is not working or spending time around vehicles, he enjoys family time with his wife, Marcie and their four kids, hiking, mountain biking, longboarding and partially completing home improvement projects.
About SpillVak: We are passionate about all things cars. Yeah, we sell some pretty amazing all-natural absorbents for any type of fluid spill, but SpillVak means so much more to us than that alone. Follow our blog or on any of our social media, if that is your thing, for all sorts of tips and tricks related to the wonderful world of things that go vroom!