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