Power To Save: Improving Your Gas Mileage

MOOSIC, Pa. -- Summer travel season is over and we're driving right into winter when your gas mileage often goes way down.

Your car's gas mileage is about 12% lower at 20°F than it would be at 77°F. The effect on hybrids is even worse. Their fuel economy can drop about 31% to 34% under these conditions, according to FuelEconomy.gov.

Why does cold weather have such a negative impact on your gas mileage?  Here are some examples from the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • Engine and transmission friction increases in cold temperatures due to cold engine oil and other drive-line fluids.
  • It takes longer for your engine to reach its most fuel-efficient temperature.
  • Warming up your vehicle before you start your trip lowers your fuel economy—idling gets 0 miles per gallon.
  • Colder air is denser, increasing aerodynamic drag on your vehicle, especially at highway speeds.
  • Tire pressure decreases in colder temperatures, increasing rolling resistance.
  • Winter grades of gasoline can have slightly less energy per gallon than summer blends.
  • Battery performance decreases in cold weather, making it harder for your alternator to keep your battery charged.

In severe winter weather, your mpg can drop even further.

  • Icy or snow-covered roads decrease your tires' grip on the road, wasting energy.
  • Safe driving speeds on slick roads can be much lower than normal, further reducing fuel economy, especially at speeds below 30 to 40 mph.
  • Using four-wheel drive uses more fuel.

We drove to Jack Williams Tire in Moosic to find ways for you to get better gas mileage and save money.

One of the easiest ways to improve your fuel economy this winter is with a simple air pressure check. You want to make sure you do that before the snow starts to fly.

"If you're down two or three PSI and you're one of those people that really keeps track of your fuel economy, you're going to notice it pretty quickly," said Tom Vose, the director of training at Jack Williams Tire.

Proper traction is another big part of higher gas mileage. Check your tire treads with a tread gauge or use the penny trick.

"In this particular case, you can see that all of Lincoln's head is showing. this tire needs to be replaced," Vose said.

When you're getting your tires done, get your alignment checked out," Vose advised. "People don't realize that a misaligned car can actually affect your fuel economy."

It's not just about your tires. A clean air filter is also important to max out your gas mileage.

"If we have a clogged-up air filter, it's going to make the engine work harder to bring air into the engine itself and your fuel economy is going to drop drastically," said Vose. "If you can't shine a light through it, air can't get through either."

These tips will help you hit the roads safely this winter while improving your gas mileage.