Maximize Fuel Economy in Cold Weather: Expert Tips for Efficiency

December 21, 2023

Proven Ways to Improve Fuel Economy in Cold Weather: Tips & Tricks

When the temperature drops, you might notice that your vehicles need more refueling, and it's not just your imagination. It happens due to increased idling time, lower tire pressure, and more resistance when driving in winter. These factors can reduce the distance your vehicles travel on a full gas tank.

fuel efficiency tips

Cold weather has adverse effects on the fuel economy of your vehicles. According to the US department of energy, regular cars use 12% more fuel at 20°F(-6.7°C) than at 77°F (25°C). The effect is even more pronounced for hybrid vehicles, with 31% to 34% fuel efficiency reductions. 

Moreover, electric cars also feel the impact of cold weather. During mixed city and highway driving, their fuel efficiency can decrease by approximately 39%, and their driving range can drop by 41%. These startling figures from a government source underscore a cold truth: Winter is tough on fuel economy.

Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides statistics that indicate a temperature decrease from 24°C to 7°C can lead to a 12% to 28% increase in fuel consumption during urban commutes.

Understanding the Impact of Cold Weather on Fuel Economy

Several reasons explain why the fuel economy in cold weather goes down. Let's discuss them.

Prolonged Engine Warm-Up Duration

In winter, a car's engine takes longer to warm to its best temperature. While warming up, the machine doesn't work either, and it uses more fuel during this time. 

Additional Power Usage

During winter, drivers often use heating features in their vehicles for comfort, like heated seats and heater fans. They also use window defrosters to clear up blurry or foggy windows while moving. However, this additional power usage can lead to more fuel consumption, reducing fuel efficiency.

Reduced Tire Pressure

When it's freezing, the air in your vehicle tires shrinks, lowering the tire pressure and causing more friction. This extra resistance leads to decreased fuel economy in cold weather.

Aerodynamic Resistance

Cold air is 11% more denser than the warm air. In winter, this denser air creates more friction, increasing aerodynamic resistance on your vehicle. Additionally, the wind tends to blow stronger in winter, making pushing through the air even more challenging for your car. So, this increased air density and wind force make your vehicle work harder, leading to higher fuel consumption.

Reduced Battery Output

The car's battery becomes less efficient in winter. The chilly weather makes it harder for the alternator to charge the battery. When you start the car, it uses more energy, putting extra stress on the electrical system. Ultimately, it leads to more fuel consumption.

Challenging Road Conditions

Winter driving also means facing rough and fuzzy roads, making your engine work harder against increased resistance. The snow-covered roads can alone increase fuel consumption by 15 to 20%, posing a challenge to fuel economy.

Proven Tips to Improve Fuel Economy in Cold Weather

During the warmer months, you might take longer drives and need fewer fill-ups. However, the icy chill of winter often leads to more frequent trips to the pump and lower fuel efficiency. It might be challenging to completely counteract the impact of cold weather on fuel economy. But you can follow these simple steps to increase fuel efficiency:

Vehicle Maintenance

Maintaining your vehicle's engine is crucial for optimal performance in colder temperatures, especially for fleet managers overseeing long rides in chilly weather. Regular checks on components like spark plugs and filters ensure efficient engine operation. 

fuel economy tips

Furthermore, removing extra accessories that increase wind resistance, like roof racks, also aids in better fuel economy. 

Tire Care

Maintaining the correct tire pressure improves fuel efficiency and prolongs tire lifespan. Ensure your tires are correctly inflated according to the manufacturer's recommendations to enhance fuel economy in cold weather.

fuel efficiency increase

Reports from the US Department of Energy indicate that under-inflated tires can decrease fuel mileage by about 0.2% for every 1 PSI (unit of pressure) drop in average tire pressure. You can use a gauge to check tire pressure and consult your owner's manual for the optimal PSI to ensure good tire care. 

Above all, choosing winter tires with the correct tread pattern and depth is essential to maintain a grip on snowy roads and prevent skidding.

Also, read our guide on how to prevent diesel fuel gelling.

Driving Habits

winter fuel economy

Ensuring fuel safety is a top priority for all fleet owners and managers. In this regard, following proper driving tips is crucial to improve fuel economy. Here are some easy-to-follow tips:

  • Avoid aggressive braking because it lowers fuel economy by 15 to 30%.
  • Allow your vehicle to warm up for three to five minutes or until it reaches a safe operating temperature.
  • Drive gently and avoid hard throttle pushes for smoother engine performance after the engine warms up.
  • Use cruise control when suitable to maintain a steady speed.
  • Drive at a moderate speed, as speeding can decrease fuel economy by 7% to 14%.
  • Change gears smoothly and progressively for enhanced fuel efficiency.

Fuel and Oil

fuel efficiency diesel

You can increase gas mileage by choosing the right motor oil, like a low-viscosity 5W30. However, using lower-viscosity oil in heavy-duty diesel engines raises concerns about insufficient protection against friction and wear. Therefore, drivers often prefer high-viscosity oil for diesel engines because of its enhanced film strength and resistance to thermal breakdown.

But, due to technological advancements, low-viscosity engine oils now contain additives that improve protection against wear, corrosion, and oxidation. So, using low-viscosity oils containing additives can benefit your fleet to run efficiently in cold weather.

Besides those conventional low or high-viscosity fuels, you can also consider a synthetic multi-viscosity oil for the best results in extremely cold or hot conditions. Synthetic oils, in particular, excel in cold temperatures due to their consistent molecular structure. They ensure better flow than conventional oils. They are also eco-friendly, emitting less greenhouse gas than traditional fuels.

In this regard, you must choose the right diesel supplier for your fleet who understands the optimal oil requirements for your vehicles in specific weather conditions. Alternatively, you can contact us for various fuel delivery services that fit your needs.

Cabin Heating

Staying warm in the car during chilly weather is essential for drivers, but it's known that using heaters can impact fuel economy. However, we can minimize heater usage and enhance fuel efficiency by taking appropriate precautions. 

fuel efficiency driving

Using the heater wisely can help ensure a comfortable ride while optimizing fuel economy during colder temperatures. Avoid blasting the heater at high temperatures. Instead, increase it gradually for comfort without excessive fuel use.  

You can park your vehicle in a garage to prevent the car from getting excessively cold. Moreover, covering the windshield also keeps the cold out, maintaining a warmer interior environment. 

Alternative Transportation Options

You can choose alternative transportation options for safety in cold weather. Public transportation is cost-effective because it is well-equipped to navigate icy roads and overcome winter challenges. Above all, public transit enhances safety and provides a budget-friendly option for winter travel.

Moreover, opting for buses or trains is more economical than dealing with fuel expenses, potential vehicle issues, and hazards like blockages and skidding on icy roads.

Environmental Benefits of Improved Fuel Efficiency

Fuel efficiency increase brings significant environmental benefits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It contributes to cleaner air quality and a healthier environment. Thus, it promotes sustainable and eco-friendly transportation practices. Furthermore, fuel efficiency reduces our reliance on finite fossil fuels and safeguards valuable resources. 

According to studies, if a car travels 30 miles per gallon (mpg), it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7 tons annually, compared to a vehicle that only gets 20 mpg. So, if you want to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adopting key tactics to improve fuel efficiency is a great idea.


Our article delved into the impact of cold weather on fuel economy and provided proven tips to maximize efficiency during these challenging conditions. By highlighting the environmental benefits of improved fuel efficiency, we underscored the importance of adopting these tips. We encourage you to implement these measures and enhance fuel economy in cold weather. 

Our team is ready to assist you with fuel or diesel delivery services. We are conveniently positioned with service locations spanning the lower 48 United States. Contact us and experience the perks of our diverse fuel services, including mobile fleet fueling, bulk fuel deliveryon-site fuel delivery, and off-road diesel delivery.

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

fuel efficiency in cold weather

What can you do to improve fuel efficiency in cold weather?

We can save fuel in winter by maintaining our cars, using winter fuels, being mindful of cabin heating, and keeping tires inflated. Removing unnecessary roof carriers and other stuff that increase wind resistance can also help improve fuel efficiency in cold weather.

Why does fuel efficiency drop in winter?

Fuel efficiency drops in winter due to cold engine operations, increased idling time, and heavier rolling resistance from stiffened tires. Decreased battery performance and aerodynamic friction also contribute to reduced fuel efficiency. 

What is the most fuel-efficient temperature?

The most fuel-efficient temperature typically falls within 75-85°F (or 25°C). In this moderate temperature range, engines quickly reach optimal operating conditions, reducing the need for extra energy consumption for heating or cooling.

What techniques can you use to save fuel?

You can save fuel by adopting healthy driving habits and maintaining your vehicle correctly for an efficient ride. For fuel efficiency increase, you must also ensure a steady highway speed, use heaters judiciously, keep tires inflated as recommended, and avoid excessive idling.

Service locations >
350 Hawkins Run rd.
suite 100, Midlothian, Texas, 76065
Fuel Logic LLC, Fuel, Midlothian, TX
Need fuel delivered to your fleet or yard?
From Washington DC to Houston TX to Seattle WA, Fuel Logic serves many locations nationwide, check if your location is covered!
Copyright 2020 Fuel Logic. All rights reserved. Review us on