Car driving down highway in winter

Better Winter Gas Mileage from Your Car

Updated April 1, 2016 . AmFam Team

Winter weather can take its toll on your car, and even your gas mileage. Take a look at these great ideas to keep your mileage up during the winter months. You could save a few bucks at the pump, and you might just be a safer as well. Now that’s a win-win!

There’s nothing like being safe and cozy in your car when you’re driving in cold weather.

But did you know that chilly temperatures can lower your car’s gas mileage? Over time, that can cost you money that you otherwise could use toward pursuing your dreams. Even in cars with the best gas mileage, once the temperatures hit 20 degrees, most will lose over 10% of their miles per gallon compared to a summer day in the mid-70s.

Lucky for you, we’ve got some smart tips to improve gas mileage when you drive in a winter wonderland.

Don’t idle too long. Get warmer faster, get better gas mileage and reduce fuel emissions by letting your car idle for only 30 seconds before driving off. Longer idling can mean lower gas mileage and spewing more exhaust.

Check your oil. Oil becomes thicker when the temperature drops, and some manufacturers recommend that you swap out your oil for a more viscous, or more fluid, type once the weather turns cold. Check your owner’s manual for details. Also, if you know your car is leaking oil, get that leak plugged! Your cold engine is working hard enough with the oil pan full.

Drive in balance. By driving more moderately you’re doing yourself a couple favors. First, accelerating and slowing down more slowly is safer when driving in winter weather, and secondly it’s easier on your engine. Keeping your RPMs lower and driving at consistent speeds can also increase your gas mileage. And driving safer isn’t just good common sense, it can save you money! Enroll in our KnowYourDrive program — if you qualify, you may score a discount on your auto insurance premium.

Park where it’s warmer. Parking in warmer places like your garage will keep your engine warmer, which can help improve your fuel economy.

Practice the 5 second rule. Increasing the gap between yourself and the car in front will allow you more room for you to accelerate more slowly, and that extra breaking distance will help to keep your car safe. Consider these tips to stay safe while driving in winter.

Keep it clean. The addition of ice and snow on your car can increase drag by making it harder for air to flow around your car. So brush or broom the snow off your whole car. Another good tip is to remove the horizontal bars on your roof rack, as these can decrease your MPGs as well.

Check in with your tires. Cold air reduces tire pressure, so check the air more often in winter. This is especially important since tires low on air will be less efficient and slow your car down more quickly. And putting on a good set of winter tires can pay off. You’ll be less likely to get stuck in the snow, and you’ll stop more quickly compared to all season tires. Get prepared for winter driving by following these tips on selecting the best winter tires.

Combined trips = savings. Short trips in the winter can be real gas guzzlers! Consolidate trips whenever possible to avoid driving a lot with a cold engine.

Shed the pounds. Take a look in the trunk or in the back of your car and remove any unnecessary heavy items. That extra weight can cost you precious miles per gallon!

Plug in that engine block warmer. On cold days, if you’ve got an engine block warmer installed, take advantage of it. Plug it in and your vehicle will produce heat more quickly and it’s more likely to start because the oil is more fluid.

Keep your cool. Some of those sweet amenities like a heated steering wheel and heated seats can actually cost your car some mileage. Your car’s alternator will have to supply electrical energy to many places at once, like the heater and its fan, your seats and defrosters, plus all the pumps and fans in your engine. Taken together, this can keep your engine from being efficient. Turn them off when you don’t need them, and save a buck or two.

Take off your mittens and give yourself a high-five! By taking these easy steps, and following our all-season Tips for Conserving Gas, you’ll get better winter gas mileage and save money toward things that matter most. After you’ve put the time to get your winter mileage plan into action, check in with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) and tune up your policy. Your agent will make sure that you’ve got all the coverage you need.

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