Can the Seasons Affect My Fuel Efficiency?
Between summer road trips, running errands or anything else you had planned during the summer, your car has been through a lot. But while the hot weather of summer can take a toll on any vehicle, including on a car’s fuel efficiency, it’s not the only time of year car owners should be wary of.
In fact, while summer can affect your gas mileage, the other seasons can also bring your fuel consumption up. Cold weather can wreak havoc on the number of “miles per gallon” (or mpg) you get, and even seasons with milder temperatures like spring and fall can have a significant impact on what you spend at the pump. Knowing how the seasons can affect your fuel efficiency can help you save money and avoid some of the biggest problems you can face any time of the year.
What is Fuel Efficiency?
You may have heard the terms fuel efficiency and fuel economy used interchangeably. But, while they both do deal with gasoline, this is a common misconception, as there are some key differences between them.
Mainly, your vehicle’s fuel economy is the specific measurement of the number of miles a car can drive with one gallon of gas, aka a car’s miles per gallon (mpg). For any vehicle, its mpg will be affected by factors like the type of engine and the different components on the vehicle. The official mpg rating of a car is determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is measurable to the extent that it will be the same amount of fuel per mile, no matter what kind of driving you are doing.
However, your car’s fuel efficiency is more abstract than the fuel economy and will change based on various factors. How you drive, what kind of condition your car is in, and the weather will all affect your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. This is why the amount of gas your car consumes will change depending on the season and the harshness of the weather during certain times of the year.
Can the Time of Year Impact My Car’s Fuel Efficiency?
Any vehicle, from a gas-powered car to a fully electric vehicle, can be impacted by the time of year, like fluctuating tire pressure and so on. However, for cars that use gasoline, their fuel efficiency can be impacted by the seasons, as they vary wildly regarding temperature, moisture in the air, road conditions, and air quality.
Because of this, your car’s gas mileage will change from season to season, and some components will operate differently depending on the time of year. Knowing how the seasons can affect your vehicle’s fuel efficiency can help you plan for higher prices at the gas station and avoid some of the issues altogether.
How Winter Weather Impacts Fuel Efficiency
More Energy Use
During the winter months, you will be more inclined to use some of the features of your car that take more energy. Things like heaters, seat warmers, and window defrosters will use additional power that needs to be generated by the engine. This will cause higher fuel consumption and make your car less efficient.
You may also be “warming up your vehicle” by idling it for a bit before your winter driving. However, while it may make your car more comfortable, you’ll be burning gas you’d otherwise be using actually driving. Even shorter trips that you otherwise wouldn’t take in warmer weather can affect your fuel efficiency.
Winter Gasoline Blends
Gasoline manufacturers use different blends designed to work better in cold weather conditions. One of the side effects of winter blends is that they will not generate as much energy as those found in the summer, which can cut down on the car’s efficiency.
Lower Battery Performance
In below-freezing temperatures, your battery will not be as efficient as it usually is, putting more strain on the engine. Because the battery will need to be charged more often, the alternator must run more frequently. This component uses gasoline and will cut into your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.
How Spring Weather Impacts Fuel Efficiency
Wider Temperature Variations
In the spring, there are bigger variations in temperature and driving conditions. You may be using the air conditioner one day and the heater the next. This can strain your engine, which will, in turn, use more gasoline and reduce your fuel efficiency.
Dirty Air Filters
The air filters in your engine compartment are your first line of defense against dust, leaves, pollen, and dirt. During the spring, they will be much more likely to get clogged, reducing airflow and forcing your engine to work harder.
Poor Road Conditions
After frigid winters, spring can be an excellent relief from the snow and rain. Unfortunately, it can also reveal potholes and cracks that often form during the winter. These poor road conditions will force your vehicle to work harder and use more gasoline than if you were driving on smooth roads.
How Summer Weather Impacts Fuel Efficiency
Warm weather can significantly affect your battery, just like cold weather does. The hotter the temperatures are, the less capacity the battery will have, which will require more work from the alternator and charger. These components are run by the engine so that they can decrease your fuel efficiency.
More Air Conditioner Use
The more you use your air conditioning, the more fuel you will use, even if you have a fuel-efficient car like a plug-in hybrid. In the summer, cold air in the cabin is essential, but if you use the A/C more often, you can expect to use more gas than you otherwise would.
Expanding & Contracting Air in Tires
Hot weather can make the air in your tires expand and contract. Generally, for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature goes up, and your tires will gain one PSI. While this can temporarily increase your fuel efficiency, the constant changes in pressure can reduce the overall efficiency.
How Fall Weather Impacts Fuel Efficiency
After the summer, the roads will be covered in engine oil and tire residue that has hardened in the sun. After the first fall rain, all that debris will seep out of the asphalt and make the roads slippery. Even if you have four-wheel drive, your vehicle will have a harder time getting a grip on the pavement, decreasing fuel efficiency.
In cooler weather, the air will be much denser than when it is hot and dry. This creates more aerodynamic drag with your vehicle, especially if you have accessories like roof racks or running lights or if you’re hauling any extra gear for your fall football tailgates. Cooler weather can increase fuel consumption at highway speeds by 1.3 percent.
Longer Warm-Up Times
Cold temperatures require you to warm your engine up before it reaches its peak efficiency. A cold engine will not efficiently burn fuel; if you take short trips, you could spend a lot more on gas in the fall.
5 Ways to Increase Fuel Efficiency
While some of the ways that the seasons can affect your gas mileage are unavoidable, there are things you can do that will help. Not only will they help during specific seasons, but they will also cut back on your gas usage year-round. Taking a few simple steps can help save you a lot of money in the long run.
1. Clear Out Clutter
The best thing you can do to help your fuel efficiency with your car is to reduce the weight. If you have a lot of clutter in your vehicle’s cabin, getting rid of it can help bring your rolling resistance down. Don’t keep tools or equipment in your car unless you need them.
2. Keep Your Speed Steady
Your speed dramatically affects how much gas you use, which can change from moment to moment. If possible, try to keep your speed as steady as possible. Significant variations in speed can reduce your fuel efficiency and will be much harder on your engine components.
3. Regularly Check Tire Pressure
Higher tire pressure will decrease your vehicle’s rolling resistance and promote better fuel efficiency. Regularly check your tire pressure and make sure that they aren’t low, especially in warmer weather.
4. Get Regular Oil Changes
A well-lubricated engine will be much more efficient than one that has a lot of friction and resistance in the engine block. Make sure you get all your scheduled oil changes and check your oil level regularly so you can top it off if necessary.
5. Perform Regular Maintenance
Nothing will help your vehicle’s fuel efficiency more than getting regular maintenance from a qualified professional. Keeping all your components and tires in good shape will give the cumulative effect of better fuel efficiency and performance. Plus, you can be sure that your vehicle will run smoothly no matter what time of year it is.
Protect Your Car Year-Round with Endurance
To keep your car running smoothly and get the best gas mileage possible, you must keep it in top shape. With a protection plan from Endurance, you can protect yourself from costly repairs and expensive breakdowns. Even if some seasons cost you more fuel, you can be sure you won’t have to spend a fortune at the mechanic.
With a protection plan from Endurance, you get award-winning customer service and flexible, comprehensive coverage. With plans ranging from up to $3,500 in maintenance coverage with an Advantage plan to basic $79 per-month coverage with a Secure plan, there is something for everyone. All plans also come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, 24/7 roadside assistance, and, with a small activation fee, one year of Elite Benefits, which includes tire replacements or repairs, collision discounts, and many more perks and savings.
To find even more information on how an Endurance auto protection plan can help you, call our award-winning customer care team at (800) 253-8203 or request a free, no-obligation quote today. You can also find even more extended warranty comparisons and other articles on automotive topics like DIY maintenance tips, vehicle buying guides, and much more by visiting the Endurance blog.
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Since opening her ASE Certified repair shop in 1979, Ayers Automotive Repairs, Nikki has devoted much of her professional life to providing dependable, trustworthy auto repair services in her local community. Her team of certified technicians has helped thousands of car owners for over 40 years by offering various services from general repairs to handicapped vehicles.