ice and snow on car

How Maine’s Cold Weather Affects Motor Vehicles

It’s that time of year again! While Mainers are familiar with the driving challenges posed by ice, wind, and snow, they may not know just how much the cold weather can affect their vehicle’s performance.

Mainers Know the Basics

Mainers are used to the cold weather (whether or not we like it is a matter of personal taste) and the preparations we need to take. This includes getting our vehicles ready for the cold with weather-specific equipment such as winter wiper blades and snow tires, as well as making sure our vehicle’s climate control system is working properly.

However, what else can we do to minimize the effect of winter weather on our vehicles? First, we need to know how Maine’s cold weather affects our motor vehicles.

Fuel Economy

With fuel prices higher than ever, it’s important to maximize fuel economy. That’s why you should be aware of the cold’s effect on fuel economy. Once the temperature drops to less than 20 degrees, your mileage drops an average of 15%. Your mileage may decrease even more if you make short trips with your vehicle.

Hybrid Vehicles

Unfortunately, cold weather affects hybrid vehicles’ fuel economy even more. A bulletin from the U.S. Department of Energy states:

The effect on hybrids is typically greater. Their fuel economy can drop about 30% to 34% under these conditions.

Like all types of vehicles, different makes and models may be impacted by the cold differently so it’s essential that you check your owner’s manual.

Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles’ fuel economy is also affected by cold weather. According to Car and Driver:

“The cold slows down battery chemistry and results in less energy for acceleration.”

Just how much depends on factors such as the temperature, and how much you use your heating system but it’s believed the cold can reduce range by 20-30%. However, the U.S. Department of Energy report states reductions in fuel economy of “39% in mixed city and highway driving, and range can drop by 41%.”

This is a substantial reduction, which can be discouraging for owners of hybrids and electrics. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the cold affecting your vehicle’s fuel economy.

General Guidelines for Improving Fuel Economy in Cold Weather

While we can’t do anything to change the cold weather, there are methods for reducing its effect on our vehicle’s fuel consumption.

  1. Park your vehicle in a warm place such as a garage.
  2. Don’t idle your vehicle for long. While you’ll want to check your vehicle’s owner’s manual, you may not have to idle your vehicle for longer than 30 seconds, which can save on fuel/power. Driving the car will help it warm up faster than idling.
  3. Minimize the use of seat warmers.
  4. Work to consolidate your trips to minimize the time you drive with a cold engine.
  5. If your vehicle has something that adds to its wind resistance such as a roof rack, remove it when it’s not in use.

Guidelines for Improving Fuel Economy in Cold Weather with Hybrids and Electric Vehicles

While the above guidelines are useful for all vehicles, if you own a hybrid or electric vehicle, there’s a couple of simple steps to try. First, try preheating the cabin while you’re plugged into your charger. You can also consider using the seat warmers instead of the cabin heater.

Car Batteries

When was the last time you checked your battery? You’ll want to do more than make sure it’s not a relic from ten years ago. There’s never a good time for a dead battery, but it’s particularly aggravating in the cold weather.

To protect your battery, make sure everything is clear because “battery posts and cable connections with clean corrosion ensure a reliable start.” You may want to consider a battery warmer to avoid any inconvenience.

Tire Pressure

The winter weather does more than make it difficult for our tires to grip the road. Cold weather will reduce your tires’ pressure, which in turn can reduce handling and fuel efficiency. It’s a good idea to check your tire pressure weekly in the cold weather to ensure it’s at the recommended rate.


Are your doors getting frozen? It may be due to the rubber in your door jam. One potential solution is to coat these parts with a silicon spray.

LED Screens

This is a minor matter compared to other car functions but as more people use their LED screens for things like navigation, it’s a convenience they don’t want to lose. The cold weather can impede your LED’s function. Normally, warming up the car will deal with this.

Fuel Lines

Why does the cold weather sometimes cause frozen fuel lines? Typically, this happens when water leaks from the gas tank into the fuel line. If your gas tank is not full, there is air inside, and when the temperature drops, any air moisture can condense and get into your tank.

From there, it can make its way to your fuel lines and freeze up. It’s recommended that you maintain at least a half-tank of gas during the winter. This can help reduce the chance of water moisture condensing in a fuel line and freezing in cold weather. If a fuel line has ice in it, your car may have trouble starting, and/or you may experience a bumpy ride.


The cold can affect the many fluids in your vehicle from basic things such as wiper fluid, antifreeze, brake fluid, and engine oil. It’s important to perform regular checks on these.

In the case of oil, you may need to get an oil better optimized for winter weather. Make sure to check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for any tips which may be specific to your vehicle, or bring your car to your service technician. If you’re located in the Lewiston / Auburn area, get in touch with Berube’s!

Take the Worry Out of Winter Weather

Maine’s cold weather affects your motor vehicle but there are ways to reduce these harmful effects. Make sure you follow these recommendations and if you’re unsure, bring your vehicle to Berube’s. We can help you make sure your vehicle is prepared for the cold weather.

Whether it’s a winter inspection, putting on snow tires, or giving your vehicle a winter tune-up, contact Berube’s today – we’re ready to help. Our team of certified technicians can assist with any of your winter weather needs, in addition to the regular service you may need for your vehicle.