With its cold winds, long nights, and merciless snows, winter can be an ordeal for both you and your car. But beyond all the extra windshield washer fluid and maintenance your ride will need, your fuel budget will likely see the biggest bump — gas use can spike by over 25 percent, adding more to an already-too-large chunk of your budget.
This is because the cold winter air puts more aerodynamic drag on your vehicle and your engine has to work harder to plow through all that snow and slush. But you can fight back with a few surprisingly simple tricks:
1. Chill out and go easy. Aggressive driving uses much more gas than you’d expect. Speeding up and slowing down suddenly makes your engine work harder than it should, so take it smooth and steady behind the wheel to see some savings.
2. Plan ahead. Beyond driving more gently in general, you can cut down on gas use with some simple planning. By keeping a careful eye on traffic ahead and keeping your speed down, you can save yourself the painful start-stopping that drives up your gas use, and still arrive on time. Working to curb those bad habits can save you time at the pump and aggravation on the road. And whenever possible, plan your route ahead of time using radio traffic alerts or a smartphone app that helps you avoid any gas-guzzling jams.
3. Don’t idle to start up. Are you using a remote starter or starting your engine then running back inside to let your vehicle warm up? Don’t fall for the driveway-idle trap — not only does it suck up gas and increase emissions, idling for more than 30 seconds doesn’t give any extra benefit. All you need to do to warm up your car is to drive it gently for a few minutes. You’ll be warmed up and on your way in no time.
4. Keep an eye on your tires. Tire pressure changes with air temperature, so check your tires at least once a month to make sure they’re inflated correctly. Driving on tires that are under-inflated by as little as 8 psi can cut their life by more than 10,000 km and drive up your gas use to boot.
5. Use a block heater. Block heaters warm up your car’s engine before you start and can cut down on gas use dramatically by eliminating the need for you to warm up the engine at all. Use a timer on the block heater for added convenience; just set it to turn on about 2 hours before you need to drive, and you’re off to the races with a pre-warmed engine, gas in your tank, and money in your pocket.
Find more information online at vehicles.gc.ca.