Are Cars More Efficient in Summer or Winter?

As the weather runs through its annual seasonal changes, you might notice that your car acts slightly differently in the depths of winter as it does when the sun is beating down at the height of summer. Thankfully, for most it’ll just be a minor inconvenience while you sit atop a heated seat in your toasty cabin, however for some older cars the cold can actually be a killer. 

If your car is one that gets brutalised once the nights draw in and the temperatures drop, then it might be time to finally let it go and find something a little more suited to the colder months. With Scrap Car Comparison you’re guaranteed to get the very best price for your car, no matter what you currently drive, and in many cases the entire process will be completed within a couple of days. Better yet, we only work with certified Authorised Treatment Facilities, meaning your car will be recycled and disposed of, giving you total peace of mind throughout.

Why Efficiency is different in Summer and Winter

You might think that cars should be built to run equally as well whatever the weather, but unfortunately even the smartest of car designers aren’t able to beat physics, and when the temperatures drop, the materials and fluids within your car will all react accordingly, whether that’s your metal pieces contracting or the thickening of various liquids, it all adds up. 


If the mercury has dropped in your thermometer then you can expect the oil that flows through your engine to be a little less… well, flowy. That’s because in the cold of winter, the viscosity (the official word for measuring the resistance a fluid has towards flow) is much greater, or to put it very simply – your oil is thicker when it’s cold. This thickness means it takes more effort to get pumped around the necessary parts, causing your car as a whole to work harder and puts additional strain on the battery, which, coincidentally, doesn’t like cold weather either.

In the worst of cases, the cold weather could actually damage your car’s engine, as the slower flow rate increases the likelihood of friction in both your engine and gearbox, and this could lead to overheating and potentially catastrophic endings.


When the weather turns and winter settles in, you might notice that you’re filling up at the pumps more often than you were during the summer months and that’s because the effects that the colder temperatures have on your cars internals mean that more fuel is needed to get your car running along as standard. A study from the US Department of Energy showed that fuel economy can drop by 15% in the winter, and even up to 24% on trips under five miles. It’s even worse for hybrids, plummeting 34% when temperatures drop. This is because the higher viscosity in your fluids at cold temperatures means there is more friction in the engine and gearboxes, making them work harder, and the harder an engine works, the more fuel it drinks. Cars are always less efficient at the start of a journey (which is why many short journeys are much less efficient than one long one), and winter weather means it takes longer for your car to reach that optimal running temperature.

To compound problems, your tyre pressures will drop in the cold weather, increasing your rolling resistance, while the denser air in lower temperatures increases aerodynamic drag, all of which means you have to work the car harder and therefore use more fuel as you drive along.


You might think that with a name like coolant, this part of the car would be immune to a sudden cold snap, but the radiator is actually one of the places most susceptible to significant damage when the weather turns. Remember, coolant and antifreeze are two entirely different things. Antifreeze is the concentrated liquid that reduces the freezing point of the fluid in your radiator, and often needs diluting, whereas coolant is a pre-diluted solution. Think of it like antifreeze being a bottle of Robinson’s squash, and coolant being a Fruit Shoot – although never drink either antifreeze or coolant as that will end badly.

Leaks in Cold Weather

If the weather has dropped significantly enough to result in your coolant freezing, then you may notice your radiator or cooling system start leaking. This is because as the liquid freezes and expands, cracks form due to the stresses the system is being put under, causing the liquid to escape through the gap. Meanwhile, your metal radiator will be contracting in the cold, so your hoses or hose clamps may come loose, causing leaks to form.

If you have noticed a leak, it’s important to get it checked incredibly quickly as your coolant could be mixing with transmission fluid and while this won’t be too much of an issue for your radiator, your gearbox will not enjoy it in the slightest.

If the cold has totally knackered your car, or its efficiency has now made it unbearable or uneconomical to run, then maybe it’s time to put it out to pasture for good. With Scrap Car Comparison’s industry leading service, you’re guaranteed to be getting the very best price for your car, no matter what condition it’s in. And what’s more, with collection agents operating across 99% of the country, we’ll even be able to provide you with free collection, so get started today by either calling our phone line on 03333 44 99 50 or by using our instant quote generator and your car will be a problem of the past.

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