Winter Driving...

 

Drive Smart - Drive Safe

 

Whether you're going across town or across the country, it's wise to plan your trip carefully. Sometimes a somewhat longer route can be more fuel-efficient and safer than a direct route, especially in winter. Avoiding heavy traffic, steep hills or notoriously bad roads can reduce fuel consumption and the chances of a collision or other mishap. It also means you will be producing fewer emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

For long-distance trips, use the latest road maps available to plan your route. Keep in mind that travelling on a four-lane highway is generally more fuel-efficient than using a two-lane highway because it is easier to maintain a constant speed. As well, you might want to use bypass roads around major cities.

Perhaps most important in winter conditions, give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. Aggressive driving not only wastes fuel, it can cause you to loose control of your vehicle even in the best of road conditions.

Protect yourself and your family on the road by practicing defensive driving techniques - in other words, by anticipating what is happening ahead of you on the road and reacting accordingly. Don't race up to stop lights, and leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the one in front to avoid hard braking.

MAINTAINING YOUR VEHICLE

A well-maintained vehicle is a reliable vehicle and reliability is most important in the dead of winter, when a roadside breakdown can cause enormous inconvenience for you and your family and possibly place you in a dangerous situation.

Aside from the potential inconvenience and safety issues, there's another good reason to keep your car in top running condition in winter. Cold weather is hard on a vehicle, making the engine work harder to achieve its maximum operating temperature and move the car down icy, snow-covered roads. The harder the engine works, the more fuel it burns and the more emissions it generates.

A regular fall/winter checkup is an important starting point for your maintenance regime. A qualified technician should check the condition of spark plugs, the air and fuel filters, battery connections, engine belts, tires, brakes, ignition system, cooling system as well as all fluid levels.  

Between scheduled vehicle checkups, you can head-off problems by taking a few minutes once a month to check fluid levels, tire pressure, spark plug wires, battery terminals and radiator hoses and clamps. Have anything that looks suspicious checked by your technician. 

Using a block heater to pre-warm the engine reduces engine wear and cuts fuel consumption.  When an engine starts up, it has to pump oil throughout the block to lubricate moving parts. In a cold engine, the oil is thick and resists flow, which means the engine has to work harder to overcome internal friction. Thick oil also takes longer to circulate.  A block heater can help address this problem by pre-warming the engine's oil and coolant, which in turn warms the engine block and lubricants. As a result, the engine will start easier and reach its peak operating temperature faster.  Don't offset your fuel savings by operating the block heater all night and running up your electricity bill. Two hours is all the time needed to warm the engine. For convenience, an automatic timer can be used to switch on the block heater a couple of hours before you plan to drive the vehicle.

TIRES IN WINTER

Chances are you gave your vehicle's tires a good look before the winter weather set in -  it's almost a Canadian ritual! But when was the last time you checked their pressure?

Correct tire pressure is vital for fuel economy, safe vehicle handling and long tire life. And it's especially important during the winter. 

That's because cold temperatures cause the air pressure in tires to drop, which adds to the rolling resistance. Each tire that is under-inflated by 2 psi (14 kPa) causes a one percent increase in fuel consumption. Under-inflation can also affect the way a tire grips the road, which can result in handling problems.

For your own safety and to keep your fuel consumption to a minimum, check tire pressure regularly during the winter, especially after there has been a sharp drop in temperature.

Before adding air to your tires, ensure the tire valve is clean. Use your own tire pressure gauge, since the gauges built into air pumps at service stations are often inaccurate or missing.

It's also a good idea to rotate your tires regularly (every 10,000 kilometres or so) to distribute the wear evenly among all four tires. In addition to promoting long tire life, this will help your tires deliver the best possible economy and safety.

FUEL-EFFICIENT WINTER DRIVING

Your personal driving habits have a big impact on fuel consumption and costs, especially in the winter. Here are five steps you can take to keep your fuel costs down and help the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

Use a block heater to warm your engine for two hours before you start it. Block heaters can improve overall winter fuel economy by as much as 10 percent. 

Don't idle your vehicle to warm it up  - it's better to drive it. Any more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days simply wastes fuel and increases emissions.

Check your tire pressure regularly, especially after there has been a sharp drop in temperature (more than 15C). Cold temperatures decrease the air pressure in tires, which adds to the rolling resistance. 

If you use a ski rack, it is a good idea to remove it when it is not needed. A ski rack (even an empty one) increases a vehicle's aerodynamic drag, which in turn causes the engine to work harder and consume more fuel. The same applies to roof racks.

Use public transit whenever possible or try ride-sharing or carpooling. You'll save money on fuel, reduce wear and tear on your vehicle and avoid the stress of driving in bad conditions.