Originally Posted by 280Z1977
I would like to hear the reasoning behind this....
In cold weather, our vehicles take a much longer period of time to reach full operating temperature. And they take this extra time each and every time we start them up, even if they have not fully cooled down.
Modern engine-management systems are very efficient at optimizing the fuel/air ratio entering the engine. The oxygen sensor monitors the percentage of oxygen in the exhaust, compares this with the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere, and generates a low-voltage signal that communicates this ratio to the computer. The computer then adjusts the pulse-width of the fuel injectors -- the precise period of time each injector is open on each injection cycle --to fine-tune the amount of fuel reaching each cylinder.
The system makes this very fine adjustment dozens of times each second, working very hard to reach the optimum air/fuel ratio for any given situation, and at steady-state cruise speed seeks to approach the perfect ratio of 14.7 to 1, called the stoichometric ratio. The system is running in a "closed loop" when it is relying upon the oxygen-sensor signal to fine-tune engine operation.
But the engine-management system can seek this optimum air/fuel ratio only when the engine is up to full temperature. In fact, the computer does not look for a signal from the oxygen sensor until it approaches full temperature. During the warm-up cycle -- which takes considerably longer in cold weather -- the computer operates on a warm-up program based on coolant temperature, mass airflow or MAP sensor input of air volume and temperature, throttle position and engine rpm. This is called "open loop" operation, meaning the system is not operating off the feedback from the oxygen sensor.
In open-loop operation during the warm-up period, the engine requires -- and is provided with -- a richer air/fuel ratio to ensure good combustion.
It needs this extra fuel for the simple reason that a percentage of the atomized, then vaporized, fuel delivered to the engine condenses into liquid gasoline on cold internal engine components such as the intake manifold, intake valves, pistons and cylinder. And remember, it's gasoline vapor, not liquid, that burns.
Until those parts warm up, the engine needs more fuel to operate with reasonable drivability. Thus, the colder the weather, the longer it takes for your engine to reach full operating temperature and closed-loop operation, and thus the more fuel the engine uses to deliver the same driving cycle. That's the primary reason your engine consumes more fuel in winter driving.
Another factor in winter mileage is air density, defined as the number of air molecules per cubic foot of air entering the engine. Remember that 14.7-1 air/fuel ratio? That means 14.7 parts of air are mixed with one part of fuel for the perfect air/fuel ratio -- that's a lot of air!
In winter, colder air means denser air -- more molecules per cubic foot. At any specific throttle setting or opening, the same number of cubic feet of air, but containing more air molecules, will enter the engine. The computer will provide more fuel to create the proper air/fuel ratio at that moment. This is a bit more subtle, since "more air/more fuel" produces more power, so you may be able to operate at a slightly lower throttle setting -- sort of rebalancing the equation.