9 Tips to Winterize Your Car EcoModder Style

by Tim Fulton on November 5, 2008

With winter fast approaching we’ll be seeing a lot more of this sort of thing.  We’ll also see our MPG drop off. This is normal. You will get lower mileage in winter, its just physics. However, there are a few things you can do to fight it. Here is my winterization list along with a few ideas from others on our forum. It includes ecomods and general winterization tips.

Use a block heater.
In colder weather it takes even longer for your engine to warm up. A block heater can totally negate this penalty of winter. It also gets you heat a heck of a lot sooner! Put it on a timer to reduce electricity usage.

Install or beef up your grill block.
Last winter I ran my Matrix with a FULL grill block. The upper and lower grills were both completely blocked off and I never had any problems with coolant temps spiking at all. Depending on your climate, you might be able to do the same. The more you can block off the faster your warm up times will be and the more aerodynamic your vehicle becomes.

Install a radiator block.
If you don’t feel up to the task of installing a grill block, you can still speed up warm up times with a radiator block.  These are extremely easy to make with a simple piece of cardboard.  Just cut it to size and slide it in front of your radiator.  Size it accordingly and watch coolant temperatures to be safe.

Use thinner oil if possible.
Some manufacturers specify thinner oil to be used at colder temperatures. Check your manual to see if you can run thinner oil. This will help your car start easier in the cold and reduce power losses to friction in the engine especially during warm up.

Use a warm air intake.
Similar to our all around warm air intake ecomod, its use is even more dramatic in the cold months.
“Higher intake charge temperature has been found to increase the flame speed, the combustion reaction rate, the uniformity of the fuel-air mixture and reduce the heat transfer rate though the cylinder walls. This all adds up to the engine using more heat for physical movement and less being wasted.”

Use an 110V AC heater to preheat your cabin.
If you like jumping into a warmed up car, don’t go out and idle your car or use a remote start. A better way is to go pickup a small space heater. Plug it in 10 minutes before you go to get into a nice warm car. If you don’t even want to go out into the cold, I saw some remote plug units the other day at the store for turning on Christmas lights. Warm your car from the comfort of your home without using gas!

Get those snow tires on.
If you live in an especially snowy area, winter tires can literally be a life saver. Last year was the first year I’ve used snow tires, and I was very happy I put them on. My wife drives around a lot for her job, so its good to know she can get around better than before.

However, you will take a hit in rolling resistance when going to a snow tire. They are generally made from a softer rubber that will increase rolling resistance. Add that to the fact that they’re made to grip in snow and you have a tire that isn’t the most MPG friendly. So, this is your call. Just make sure to be safe out there.

Adjust tire pressure.
Again, this will be your call. Higher tire pressure is pretty much great for spring through fall. Its downside is definitely winter though. A hard tire is not going to mold well to an uneven surface like a snow covered road. So, it is advisable to think about decreasing tire pressure in the winter. You don’t have to lower it a ton, just find a pressure you are comfortable with.

Check and/or replace your windshield wipers.
You don’t want to find out your wipers are bad that first morning you wake up to a freezing cold vehicle. Its much easier to take a little initiative and check them while its still relatively warm out. Pickup a set of winter wipers. They have a softer rubber that doesn’t streak as much as normal wipers will.

What do you do to prepare for winter?

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1 Stacey October 28, 2009 at 8:07 am

These are some great tips! I’ll have to pass these along for this winter. I had no idea about the tire pressure change for winter, much less about heater blocks. Thanks for the information

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