That chill in the air means it takes longer for the engine to reach its optimum temperature, where it’s at its most fuel efficient. This is more of an issue on short trips; when you nip to the shops and back, your car can spend most of the trip at less-than-ideal temperatures.
To combat this, try to combine trips so you’re not driving with a cold engine so often. If you can, it’s also a good idea to park your car in a garage or any place that’s warmer than outdoors. That way, you’re starting off from a warmer temperature when you fire up the engine.
If you’re really keen to save on fuel, wrap up warm and head to the corner store on foot instead – it’ll help you stay healthy, too.
Don’t be (too) idle
Knowing that your car takes time to reach its most fuel-efficient temperature, should you spend time (and petrol) warming up your vehicle before driving?
It turns out that modern vehicles are pretty good at coping with cooler temperatures and warming themselves up as you drive, so there’s no need to leave your engine idling for half an hour while you have breakfast. Also remember that New Zealand’s climate is pretty mild, so idling for a long time is unnecessary.
Having said that, on cold days it’s a good idea to let the engine run for 30 seconds or so before driving off. This lets the oil get warm so it can lubricate those moving parts more easily.
Plus, it takes a little while for the heater to kick into gear, so you may as well use the time to warm up your icy hands before you need to put them on the steering wheel.
Go easy on the heating
This one’s fairly obvious, but it’s worth mentioning since it can make a big difference. Use defrosters and heating when necessary, but if you want to save on petrol, make a point not to over-indulge.
Ask yourself if your car temperature really needs to be so balmy you can happily ditch the coat and drive along in your T-shirt. Those seat warmers are nice, but why not save them for just the coldest days, when you can really appreciate them?
Check your tyres
Tyre pressure drops in colder temperatures, which increases rolling resistance and means your car needs to use petrol more quickly.
To improve your fuel economy, check your tyre pressure regularly and make sure there’s plenty of tread. This is also important for safety, especially when the roads are wet or slippery. Fuel efficient tyres can also help you save money on petrol, in any weather.
It can be tempting to store three winter coats in the back seat for ‘emergencies’, but excess weight will mean your car has to use more fuel to lug it around. So clean up your act and make sure you’re only carrying what you need.
To keep your car running well in cold weather, try these tips to winter-proof your vehicle.