Winterizing Your Hybrid Car

Winter weather can be problematic for any car, but it is even more stressful for hybrid vehicles.  The good news is that with a little forethought and careful preparation, you can improve the winter-weather performance of your Honda Civic Hybrid or Toyota Prius.

Blocking the Front Intake Grille
The Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius are both designed to operate at temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees Celsius. Cold weather can be incredibly problematic for these vehicles.

Blocking the front intake grille, either with an aftermarket kit or some hand-cut insulating pipe is a quick and easy way to warm up the engine, improving performance in cold weather.  Two sections of ¾ inch pipe should be enough to block the grille on either car.  If you will be driving in below-zero temperatures, you should start by blocking 75% of the grille. If the engine is still cold after 15-20 minutes of driving, try blocking the entire grille. If you’re driving in milder conditions, 50% blocking may be enough to keep the engine warm.

Heating the Engine
Warm up the engine with a block heater before you start driving.  This will reduce wear and tear on the engine, and reduce the amount of time you need to waste performing warm-up idling every time you want to leave the garage.

Tweak Your Tyres
Increasing your tyre pressure is a good way to improve your fuel economy no matter what car you are driving.  During cold weather, the internal air pressure of your tyres decreases, making them run flatter and increasing the friction between the tyres and the road.

If you have a direct tyre pressure monitoring system you can use this to keep track of your tyre pressures easily.  If not, take the time to check your tyre pressure once a week, and tweak it as necessary.

The standard tyre pressure set by manufacturers is 32 psi, which is good for prolonging the life span of the tyres but is not particularly useful in terms of fuel economy.  Consider increasing the PSI of your front tyres to 38-42 PSI, and the rear tyres to 36-40PSI.

Be warned that higher PSI settings reduce tyre durability, and very high PSI settings may impair handling. Never inflate your tyres higher than the maximum pressure rating given by the manufacturer. Increase pressures gradually and drive carefully while you are still getting used to the way the car handles after the change.

A Final Word of Warning
The best way to stay safe during periods of bad weather is to not drive at all.  If you absolutely must make a car journey when it is snowing or the temperature outside is below freezing, drive slowly and carefully and leave plenty of room between you and any other cars on the road.

In addition, the suggestions above are intended only for use in the winter, and are not general fuel economy or performance improvement recommendations.  Do not make any changes to your vehicle unless you know what you are doing, and understand the purpose of the modifications.

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This article was written by Crispin Jones on behalf of Main Dealer Discount, providers of discount servicing for Honda and other car makes. Find out more about what they do and their Honda servicing on their site.

Photo: e-dogg