How to Improve Your Vehicle’s Fuel Efficiency Throughout the Winter

milner snow

No matter what make or model of vehicle you drive, the conditions throughout the winter will certainly affect the way you drive and the way you care for your set of wheels. As the cold and ice begin to set in, you might make adjustments such as changing your 4×4 tyres to winter-specific ones, or you might just carry on as normal but with the heating seeing much more usage.

Regardless though, the state of the road with its reduced grip and the greater periods of darkness will place more of a strain on your vehicle’s electrical appliances. Being forced to use your heater, fog lights, etc, is estimated to reduce the performance of trucks by around 10%, with cars also being impacted in a similar manner.

To counter this seasonal annoyance, there are luckily a number of ways to reduce the amount of fuel that you’re burning through. For instance, when it comes to setting off on a journey with a vehicle that’s been exposed to the cold, don’t just get in and drive off immediately. If you can wait a few minutes for the internal parts of the engine to heat up and reach a more optimal operating temperature, then you can reduce the strain on it and subsequently the amount of fuel required to get things up and running.

Secondly whilst you might want to drive faster if only to get out of the cold quicker, going as fast as legally allowed isn’t always the best course of action from an efficiency perspective. Whilst it is true that higher gears tend to consume less petrol, going too fast can lead to far more fuel being used than if you drove just a tad slower whilst in transit. The technical aspect of this revolves around the number of revs being produced, and avoiding heavy braking or acceleration will also yield a positive contribution in this regard. That’s not to mention the attention you should pay to speed limits, and even if the signs permit you to do a certain limit, do you really need to do so when there may be hidden dangers present?

Maintenance of your vehicle is another key avenue for exploration and whilst something you should always be on top of, this becomes even more crucial when driving in potentially treacherous conditions. Everything from tyre pressure to dust clogging up your air filters can reduce the performance of various instruments, in turn creating a needless expense on fuel on the driver’s behalf. Whilst different types of vehicle will have their own specific things to watch out for, the common consensus is to pay special attention to the tyres, oil, windows, brakes, interior, and fluids.

Indeed, tyre inflation is a point also worth considering as the pressure to which your tyres are kept impacts mainly on handling, but also on fuel consumption. Estimates are that for every one PSI away from the recommended level, tyres can worsen fuel mileage by .3%.

Fortunately though checking the PSI level of your tyres is easily done via checking the owner’s handbook which should come with the vehicle, or in many cases marked somewhere on the vehicle for easy consultation. Any petrol station will have the facilities to top up with air if needed, at a minimal fee.

Another possible approach for drivers to take is to reduce the weight your vehicle is carrying, and this is a tip for all year round-not just winter. Removing non-essential parts such as excess seats will mean the engine has less weight to propel forward and subsequently requires less fuel to move around. Take care though to not go overboard in this regard as some removable items such as spare tyres are items that are certainly better to have with you, even if they do make you slightly heavier.

If you have the financial capability to do so as well, there are a number of gadgets that can make your life behind the wheel a cheaper and more comfortable experience. Sat Nav’s and other GPS devices are far less costly than they once were, and apps such as Google Maps come completely free with smartphones and can be used to plot the quickest route in real-time. There are a number of other more expensive gizmos that can be purchased to help provide a better breakdown of your driving habits and what you can improve on, but the free options are more than sufficient for most people.

It’s also worth mentioning that no matter how meticulous you might be preparing your vehicle and making all the necessary purchases, there will be occasions when the weather is so bad that driving just simply isn’t worth the risk. There isn’t a product around that can 100% mitigate the dangers posed by ice or blizzards, so unless there is a dire emergency that happens to be occurring, staying at home and not using any fuel at all is likely to be your best bet.

Ultimately though no matter how meticulous you are with the way you drive or how you care for your vehicle, the rigours of nature mean that you will almost certainly spend more on fuel over the coming months than throughout the rest of the year. However, using the above tips you should be able to mitigate your losses and prevent such a vital expense from spiralling out of control and leaving you increasingly out of pocket.

Lastly, whilst making savings here and there is always enjoyable, vehicle ownership carries with it a responsibility to both yourself and fellow road users to maintain it to a level that does not threaten anyone’s safety. Being reluctant to adjust your tyres, for example, increases the odds of even the best driver being undone by a hidden patch of ice, and it only takes a single moment for everything to go wrong. Saving money is less important than safety so minimise some costs where you can, whilst spending on the real essentials that all drivers will require when the cold weather rolls in.

See our wide range of 4×4 parts and accessories at our main website https://www.milneroffroad.com for a great selection of products to help you prepare your 4×4 for winter driving, including snow recovery tracks.

Want more like this? Check out our other post – Winter Driving Safety Tips which features a cool, helpful infographic too.

Watch Out For These Common 4×4 Mistakes

common driving mistakes

Common Driving Mistakes Made In 4×4’s

Off-road driving can be a fun and exciting experience provided it is done with the right technique and carried out within certain guidelines. But if these instructions are avoided then it can turn into an expensive adventure. People often tend to take shortcuts, but sometimes those shortcuts and ingrained methods can make your 4×4 life more difficult in the long run.

Here are the five biggest mistakes people make when going for off-road rides:

Not Being Fully Prepared

Off-road adventures require a lot of heads-up and it takes real preparation to tackle the really rough tracks – not just simply rushing out without packing more than a few drinks. Even if you are confident in your abilities and have done it many times before, carrying a basic kit in case of emergencies is always a good idea.

It might also be useful to carry a recovery kit as well, which can help in any condition. The more you prepare yourself, the more you will be able to enjoy your 4×4 ride without being stranded and on a desperate lookout for help.

Over-packing

It is always advisable to carry necessary items such as extra clothes, food, a sufficient amount of water and a lot more. But that doesn’t mean you should bring everything and the kitchen sink just for a quick jaunt.

Make sure your 4×4 isn’t overloaded and is below the legal weight limit that can be supported safely by a vehicle. Bringing every piece of equipment and overdoing it is not required for every trip and may create the risk of losing the vehicle’s balance if you’ve got all your gear loaded on the roof or piled on the back.

Unstable conditions in off-road driving could cause your car to handle differently and put you in an unexpected and possibly dangerous situation. Apart from all the stuff you pack, make sure your recovery gear is the last thing that is being packed so that it can be easily found whenever needed.

See the European adventure packing guide from The Savvy Backpacker for more help on ideas of what to pack.

Going Too Solid

Speed is not always the key to brilliant driving, as you don’t want to go hurtling into a situation from where you can’t get out. Sometimes you need to go slow on the throttle, like when you are on the beach and have to move through ruts that are trying to push your car towards the surf.

The old cliché “slow and steady wins the race” can be literal when it comes to manoeuvring past obstacles, instead of getting stranded and charging in too forcefully. Try to plan your approach, get out and walk ahead of an obstacle rather than just stamping down on the accelerator once you find yourself in a bit of trouble, which will inevitably make it worse.

Selecting Low Quality Gear

It’s important to select quality recovery gear when heading out on an expedition. You should always ensure that you choose high quality essentials such as snatch strap or a winch for whenever you get stuck. It doesn’t mean that you have to buy the most expensive or gold-plated items, but you must ensure that your gear is good quality and in working order.

Spending a little bit more to buy something once would be better rather than skimping on the cost and having to buy it over and over again, especially if it’s going to leave you stranded.

Going Alone

Going on an adventure on your own is not always a good idea unless you have enough experience. If you go on an off-road trip alone and unfortunately get stuck, there might be fewer chances of getting help, especially at places which do not have signals or signboards. This could leave you stranded for some time.

So, make sure you are heading out in groups so that you have a rescue vehicle in case something goes wrong. With a group or team your ability to tackle these situations increases.

Not Knowing Your Car

Before you start your ride and go off-road, you need to know what your vehicle is capable of and what it isn’t. Also, you should check whether your 4×4 has enough storage and seating capacity according so that you and other members can sit comfortably.

Properly assessing the vehicle will give you an idea of any changes that may need to be made.

Not Selecting The Right Driving Mode

Many 4-wheel drive vehicles have multiple terrain modes that should be decided based on the type of track you will be driving on. You have to select the required mode before heading towards the obstacle. Don’t try to ride the vehicle in normal mode and switch to the right mode only when you’re stuck.

Once you get stuck, switching to the correct mode will not get you out instantly. You need to make sure that you select the desired driving mode from the beginning of your journey so that you don’t face any issues.

Tyre Pressure

Tyres are the most important part of your vehicle while off-roading. You need to check air pressure and general 4×4 tyre condition before going on an adventurous ride. If you choose sandy surface for off-roading, make sure you lower your tyre pressure so that the contact area increases and the pressure is distributed over a larger surface area.

To prevent yourself from getting bogged down this step is extremely crucial. Make sure you revert back to the required tyre pressure when you are done with off-roading else it could result in a tyre blow out.

Not Maintaining Momentum

During off-roading, you have to balance your vehicle’s speed from being too slow and having constant momentum because any sudden acceleration could create issues. Possessing adequate momentum will keep things safely moving.

Having stable momentum and gradual throttle input will prevent you from getting stuck in a deep rut and also help you get out of any sticky situations.

See this guide from Lotsa Fresh Air for more tips on driving on dirt roads.

While preparing yourself for any off road adventure, you need to pay keen attention to all of the mistakes listed above, and work to avoid making them. Making the correct checks and avoiding these mistakes will help you a lot when it comes to tackling any obstacles you may face when off roading, and help make your trip enjoyable and memorable.

Heading out on any 4×4 expeditions in the near future? Or maybe just want to give your vehicle from TLC? Make sure you check out our best ever range of 4×4 parts for sale.