How's Your Gas Mileage This Winter?

Winter-blend gasoline, which kicked in early this year, can lower a car's mileage. What's it doing for yours?

About a month ago, I noticed something terrible. As gas prices were going up, my mileage was plummeting.

It dropped from 25 miles a gallon to 17 (no hybrid here), enough to make me consider joining the modern age and getting rid of my 20-year-old car.

First, however, I tried everything I could to up the efficiency. I replaced the tires and spark plugs. I got it tuned up. But, no luck. The needle in the gas tank was dropping like the altimeter on a falling plane. 

So, I hit up my mechanic buddy, George Loughran, who had the answer right away.

“Five miles a gallon? That's the winter blend.”

Oh yeah, the gas we Californians put in our cars from November through March is dirtier and contains additives such as butane, which burn at a higher vapor pressure. They make the gas cheaper, but far less efficient than the summer gas, which burns at a much lower pressure and is more pure.

Butane, for example, would boil off as a gas in summer, but can help fill a tank in the winter.

The summer and winter switch isn't much thought about, but became an issue in October when Gov. Jerry Brown asked the Air Resources Board to allow the winter gas to be sold before Oct. 31, because gas prices were reaching record highs.

So, we get cheaper gas, but have to use more of it? I'm not sure how the math works here.

How is it working in your tank? Are you Prius and Volt owners feeling smug in the smog?

Should I take the plunge and get something more fuel efficient, as opposed to a car with no payments?

P.S.: California gas prices averaged just over $4 a gallon in 2012, a record, beating last year's high of $3.50 a gallon. Nationwide prices averaged $3.60 a gallon, according to this story in the Los Angeles Times.

Michael January 07, 2013 at 12:29 AM
It's not blame, it's root cause analysis or connecting-the-dots. How can you not talk about why we have winter-gas??? It came from Democrat politicians you voted for. Where did you think it came from, the Easter Bunny? You liberals like to "feel good" but when the truth of YOUR ACTIONS is exposed you get all defensive.
M.Legison January 07, 2013 at 12:43 AM
I saw a .2 mpg decrease too, but as it was 12.4 mpg before it doesn't matter much. You don't buy an H2 for economy.
beaumontdave January 07, 2013 at 07:30 AM
Slim Pickins. Slim Whitman was the yodeling singer.
Andrew S January 07, 2013 at 03:45 PM
I loved my old TDI! Only compliant I had was diesel was stinky, and when I visit cold areas would have to use anti gel.
Jack January 07, 2013 at 04:56 PM
My 2007 Prius dropped down to 49.5 MPG this winter.


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