When Old Man Winter arrives, he brings more than bitter wind, ice, and snow. Another unwelcome visitor of cold weather is reduced gas mileage.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, fuel economy drops substantially when you take short winter trips. Tests showed that a car’s gas mileage is approximately 12 percent lower when the weather is 20 degrees Fahrenheit compared to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

The good news is there are several things you can do to improve your car’s gas mileage this winter. Keep the following five cold weather fuel economy tips in mind.

1. Take longer trips

In the warm summer months, it doesn’t affect your gas mileage much to jump in the car and take a quick trip to the grocery store. That’s not the case in winter. A cold engine must work harder to operate, and while doing so, uses more gas.

Save gas in the long run by grouping several short trips into a longer one. The more you drive, the warmer the car’s engine will remain and the better the gas mileage.

2. Park in a warm area

If possible, park your car in a warm location, such as a garage. Outdoors, choose a spot that is as close as possible to a building. The heat of the structure will keep the car warmer than if you were to park in an area that’s exposed to the elements. Having the vehicle even slightly warm when you start it up will result in less energy demands on the engine.

3. Minimize idling

Though conventional wisdom used to dictate that you idle your car to warm it up, most cars today warm up faster when you drive them. The fact is that idling gets you 0 miles to the gallon. Start the car and drive off slowly after about 30 seconds. This will allow the vehicle to heat up sooner, which will reduce emissions and improve mileage.

4. Test your tire pressure

Tire pressure tends to decrease more quickly in colder temperatures. The lower your tire pressure, the less fuel efficient your vehicle will be. Check your tire pressure regularly in the winter—especially if you think it’s low. Proper tire pressure leads to better gas mileage and safer handling.

5. Clean your car on a regular basis

A car or truck loaded down with snow or ice will run less efficiently and that will affect your gas mileage. Clean off snow and de-ice your vehicle prior to driving. If you have an open flat-bed truck, keep the back clear of debris, snow and ice. Along the same lines, avoid using vehicle attachments that can create wind resistance, such as roof racks and other accessories.

The winter season can be taxing on your car—and you. Knowing how to improve winter gas mileage makes the cold season driving experience much more pleasant.

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