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Why does my car get worse gas mileage in the winter?

Posted by tom zoebelein on Fri, Jan 04, 2013 @ 10:07 AM

poor gas mileage in the winter

Have you noticed that your vehicle tends to burn through gas faster in the winter months?  Well, your suspicions are correct.  And here in Harford County, Maryland that is actually more so the case for us than it is for areas of the country with warmer climates.  Cold weather has a major impact on gas mileage and here are the biggest reasons why:

  • Cold temperatures slow everything down.  Because cold air is denser than warm air, it has a slowing effect on all of your vehicle’s fluids.  When those oils and fluids are colder, they become thicker and less lubricating, which makes it that much harder for your vehicle to move.   

  • The gasoline blend is different in winter.  Did you know that gas companies change their gasoline formulations throughout the year?  They do this in order to adhere to emissions standards.  Here’s a great explanation from Bell Performance:

This “reformulated” gas is blended in such a way that it has a lower vapor pressure in the summer and a high vapor pressure in the winter blends.  This means the summer gas evaporates less and thus contributes less to the “evaporative emissions” which represent millions of gallons of gasoline per year evaporated in the air.  Winter gas is more volatile and evaporates more quickly, so it is ideal for the colder air of winter.

Basically, the gasoline blend for winter works better in cold weather and causes fewer emissions, but it contributes to lower gas mileage. 

  • Tire pressure is lower.  With the cold, dense air of winter, your tires lose pressure faster.  The Huffington Post explains: “for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit the temperature drops, your tires can lose about 1 pound per square inch (PSI) of pressure.”  This can be really frustrating, especially because lower tire pressure lessens your gas mileage.  Since this is one of the few problems you can do something about, be sure to check your tire pressure frequently and follow your car manufacturer’s guidelines in your user manual.

  • Letting your car warm up eats gas.  Are you someone who lets your car warm up in the morning before you drive it?  A lot of us do it and it can be great for warming up our bodies, but it’s not the most efficient way to warm up our cars.  Most importantly, it is a big waste of gas, so it drives our gas mileage way down.  To maximize your car’s efficiency and lessen the impact on your gas consumption, try not to let your car sit for longer than a minute before driving it. 

  • Snow and ice slow all of us down.  When we’re confronted with snowy and icy driving conditions, the best way to get through it is to slow down and take our time.  Last winter in Harford County wasn’t so bad, but who knows what this winter might have in store for us.  When you slow down to deal with bad weather, it does decrease your gas mileage, but even if it’s not great for your wallet, it’s a whole lot better for your safety.

If you need to prepare your car for winter, give Ward Automotive in Bel Air, Maryland a call. Ward Automotive is a division of Bel Air Autobody, Inc, an autobody repair facility with a reputation for quality repair servicing the residents of Harford County for over twenty years.

Our mechanical division called Ward Automotive grew from a need to help our customers receive complete automotive car under one roof.  Our seasoned technicians are highly trained, and we possess the latest tools and equipment to service your car right.  Why not take your car to the shop that knows your car inside and out?

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Topics: Autobody mechanic Bel Air Maryland, Car repair Harford County, bel air mechanic, Harford county Mechanic, winter weather car problems, auto mechanic bel air, car repair Bel Air, basic car maintenance, preparing for winter weather, gas mileage