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Gas Myth: Does Cooler Weather Really Affect Gas Mileage?

Can you feel it? The cold chill of autumn is finally in the air, which means that winter is slowly but surely approaching. As the days grow colder and shorter, you’ll probably find yourself moving around more sluggishly. Guess what – so will your vehicle. But does that mean that wintry weather truly has an affect on your gas mileage? Let’s take a more in-depth look at this pervasive wintertime myth!

Is This Myth True?

In short, YES – cold weather can negatively affect your fuel economy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, fuel economy tests show that a standard vehicle’s gas mileage is roughly 15% lower at 20°F than it would be at 77°F. This rate can plummet even further (up to 24%!) whenever you drive your car for only 3 or 4 miles.

So, no, your parents weren’t kidding when they told you to keep your tank full in the winter!

What Causes Lower Fuel Economy in the Winter?

Several factors come into play. Here are the many ways winter can affect your vehicle’s performance:

  • Thicker motor oil and other vehicular fluids cause more friction in the engine, making it work harder to do its job.
  • Excessive idling gets you exactly zero miles per gallon. Even if you’re warming up your car for just a few minutes, you’re burning fuel!
  • A colder engine will take more time to heat up and reach its peak fuel-efficient temperature. This is especially pertinent if you take shorter trips since your vehicle will spend most of the time performing at less-than-optimal temperatures, resulting in a lower fuel economy.
  • Winter grades of gasoline have less energy compared to summer grades, which can negatively affect your MPG.
  • A higher rolling resistance in your sluggish tires (along with decreased air pressure) puts a strain on your overworked engine.
  • Aerodynamic drag increases due to the cold air’s density. This is especially true if you’re traveling at high speeds or with additional features like a bike rack.
  • The battery (and consequently, the alternator) has to work harder in colder weather. Additional power used by heater fans, window defrosters, and heated seats also consume more power.
  • Severe winter weather will also impact road conditions, which generally means you’ll be driving at slower speeds as your vehicle tries to navigate through the slippery streets. Driving in 4-wheel or all-wheel drive will also use more gas.


How Can You Improve Gas Mileage in Cold Weather?

Fortunately, there are many smart steps you can take to help improve your gas mileage in the winter months! Here are some pro-tips from your friends at Home Service Oil:

  • Combine shorter trips into one long errand run! If at all possible, travel to the destination that’s farthest away to give you engine plenty of time to warm up and operate efficiently.
  • Keep an eye on your tire pressure and keep them at the proper PSI (pounds per square inch) at all times. Check your owner’s manual to learn what the right range is for your vehicle!
  • Choose a warm place to park your car so it won’t take as much time to warm up. Your garage is the perfect spot for your vehicle. Don’t have a garage? Park your car as close to your home as possible.
  • Reduce time spent idling. Many manufacturers recommend driving off gently after only 30 seconds of idling. Today’s vehicles will warm up more quickly as you drive them!
  • Clean out your car frequently. If you drive around with a full trunk or debris in your open flatbed truck, you’re negatively affecting your gas mileage. Besides, it feels great driving in a cleaned-out vehicle!
  • We doubt you’ll be doing a lot of biking in the snowy winter months, so take the time now to detach your bike rack and roof rack, if you have them!


Remember, the impending winter will make your vehicle work even harder, so be kind to it and follow the above tips. Doing so won’t just improve your gas mileage – it will also reduce your vehicle’s wear and tear! Don’t forget to also use fresh, high-quality fuel from your friends at HSO! We can deliver fuel quickly and efficiently to your farm, business, or construction site whenever you need it. Learn more by calling us at 1-800-467-5044!




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