You have to remember that when you are idling, you are getting ZERO MILES PER GALLON. The less you idle, the better your fuel economy.
To those of you that live in a climate that doesn’t go down to -30c/-20f, this in part will not be a huge concern for you. But some parts of this article will be relevant. A lot of people note that in the winter, the amount of kilometers/miles they get per tank drops quite considerably. To help stop a portion of that fuel economy loss, some simple tips could drop your fuel costs by a noticeable margin.
The one thing people need to stop doing is allowing they engine to sit in the driveway for 15 minutes warming up before they leave. If you are using a proper grade of oil for your car, warming up the engine by idling for long periods does not help you out at all. For one, idling is the slowest way to warm up your engine when compared to actually driving the vehicle. Your engine during driving will warm up in a 1/3 of the time than it will sitting idling at low speed in your driveway. Also consider that idling will dilute your oil a bit through fuel dilution from and will raise engine wear slightly. After you get the oil hot after driving for a long period, the fuel in the oil will eventually evaporate, but short trips and lots of idling will reduce you oil’s ability to lubricate properly.
To save fuel, you can switch to a synthetic oil which will flow better at startup and thus will stop the need for long idle warmup. Keep in mind that synthetic will save you money all the time when operating your car and not just during startup. But even with a standard proper grade engine oil, after starting, a warmup should last for no longer than 3-4 minutes in the driveway. During this time your heat should be completely off and no defrost running so you can stop the engine’s heat being removed by the cabin heater. Having the heat all full blast pushing cold air DOES NOTHING to defrost the interior. Give the engine a chance to warm up the coolant and engine first.
If you are having internal frost problems, you need to clean your floor mats and dry out the inside of your car. Removing all water from inside the car and especially from the floor mats will stop most of this. Also when the cabing is warm during long drives, open the windows to allow the dry cold air in and the warm moist air out from time to time to dry out the interior. From time to time, bring your wet carmats into your house and hang them up to drip dry or you can buy rubber winter floor mats that don’t absorb water and thus, only need to be dumped out occasionally. If your interior is dry, you won’t get any frost inside your windows.
After the 3-4 minutes, take is easy on the car as you pull away and make sure there is no rapid acceleration. Slowly accelerating up to speed will allow the engine to warm up and will not stress any components. Of course do this making sure you can look through your windshield. Within a couple kilometers you will see that the windshield will start to clear quite rapidly seeing the engine will be warming up a lot faster but make sure you keep the defrost on and the fan on low till so you don’t all of a sudden start to cool your engine down a bit. Having the fan on full blast not only loads your alternator, but it also makes the cabin feel colder due to windchill. More is not better.
Another way to cut down on idling is to use an engine block heater. Buy a block heater timer and have it set to come on an hour before you come out to start it if you own a four cylinder, or two hours if it is a V6 or a V8. Running a block heater all night is both hard on your electricity bill and is not needed to start a standard engine. A normal block heater is about 1500watts and running it for 10 hours WILL BE VERY EXPENSIVE and a complete waste of money.
Also remember, once your car has been driven, you do not have to warm a car up every time you get in it that day. If it has been less than 6 hours, just start up and drive away.
Through these small tips you can easy boost your fuel economy by 10-15% in the winter and save money. Safe driving!