When it's cold out, it's tougher on your wallet. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, your fuel efficiency drops when it's just 20 degrees Fahrenheit than when it's a milder 77 degrees. A conventional car can lose 12 percent of its fuel efficiency at the colder temperature, according to the Department of Energy, with a 22 percent reduction in short trips of just three to four miles. Hybrids lose even more of their efficiency, losing 31 to 34 percent of its gas mileage in the cold. How do you help reduce losing the extra miles off your drive? Here are some tips from the Department of Energy.
Cold engine oil, other fluids impacted by cold
One way that cold weather impacts your gas mileage is that cold engine oil and other fluids aren't as effective in reducing engine and transmission friction.
Cold engines take longer to heat up
When it's cold out, it takes longer for your car's engine to reach its fuel-efficient temperature. That's especially true on short trips where the engine doesn't have long to warm up.
Heaters use additional power
Everything from heaters to heated seats and even window defrosters use power, which can impact your car's gas mileage in the cold.
Warming up uses gas
When you idle your car to warm it up, it's important to remember you're getting 0 miles to the gallon until you start driving. Start off driving slowly to give it a chance to warm up without wasting fuel.
Colder air is denser, which increases drag on your car, especially at highway speeds -- which further reduces your gas mileage.
Air pressure in your tire decreases in the cold, increasing the rolling resistance, which can lower gas mileage.
Winter blend gasoline
Winter blends of gas have slightly less energy than the summer versions. Since in the winter evaporation is less of a concern, gasoline is made with additives such as butane. That makes it a little bit cheaper in the winter; but, since butane burns more quickly, your gas mileage will take a bit of a hit.
In cold weather, your battery performance drops, meaning your alternator has to do more work to keep the battery charged. In hybrids, it also impacts the vehicle's regenerative braking system.
Tires in snow
In snowy or icy weather, when your tires can't grip the road as they usually can, it wastes energy, leading to lower gas mileage.
Slower speeds, lower gas mileage
When the roads are slick and cars drive slower on the highway, it also means you're using up more gas faster, especially when traffic dips below 35 to 40 miles per hour.
4-wheel drive uses more fuel
If your vehicle is able to, and it has to go into four-wheel drive to navigate the snow, it uses up more fuel as well.
If you want to try to help save your gas mileage in cold weather, park inside if you can, as your car's temperature won't need to rise as much as when it's out of the elements.
If you combine your trips on errands, it will help keep your engine warmer and save gas.
Limit idling time
According to the Department of Energy, most manufacturers recommend driving off after just 30 seconds of idling time. The engine will warm up faster, and help improve gas mileage over letting it idle for longer.
Limit your seat warmers and defroster
Clean or scrape off windows before starting, as it will help reduce the amount of energy used to run the defroster. Limiting heated seats will help as well.
Check your tire pressure
With the cold weather impacting your tire pressure, it's a good idea to check on it when temperatures drop.
Use recommended oil
The Department of Energy suggests making sure you use the oil the vehicle's manufacturer recommends for cold weather driving.
Limit wind resistance
If you have any accessories you can remove, like a roof rack, it will help cut down wind resistance and help a little on gas mileage.
Plug in while preheating the cabin
If you own a plug-in or hybrid vehicle, if you preheat the cabin while still charging, it will lengthen the range of your vehicle.
Use the seat warmers
For plug-in or hybrid owners, using the seat warmers instead of the cabin heater can save energy.