CarCare.org: Steps to a “Greener” Car
It doesn’t matter if the car you’re driving is new or old, big or small. There are preventive maintenance steps every vehicle owner can take to make sure their car is as “green” or environmentally friendly as possible, according to the Car Care Council.
By following a few simple preventive maintenance steps, you can help protect the environment by improving gas mileage, which in turn saves money at the pump.
Keep your car properly tuned for optimum performance. Regular tune-ups, maintenance and having clean air filters will help your car pollute less and burn less gas. Getting a tune-up can improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent. Simply changing the car’s air filter can improve efficiency by 10 percent. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve gas mileage by as much as 40 percent.
Drive Smart – If you have to drive your car, recognize that how you drive has a lot to do with fuel economy. Avoid sudden starts and stops and go the speed limit. Jerky and aggressive driving decreases your miles per gallon (MPG) and increases wear and tear on your vehicle. Minimize unnecessary miles by combining errands in one trip.
Lighten the Load – Get the junk out of the trunk and the stuff out of your car, with the exception of emergency items such as a spare tire, flares and a first-aid kit. Extra items weigh the vehicle down and cause an increase in gas usage.
Regularly check and replace dirty air filters. An air filter that is clogged with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off the air and creates a “rich” mixture – too much gas being burned for the amount of air – that wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your car’s performance, but not miles per gallon.
Have spark plugs checked and replaced if necessary. A vehicle can have four, six or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as three million times every 1,000 miles. This results in a lot of heat, electrical, and chemical erosion. A dirty spark plug also causes misfiring, which wastes fuel.
Maintain the cooling system. A cooling system thermostat that causes the engine to run too cold will lower the fuel efficiency of a car by as much as one or two mpg. There also are improved radiator caps on the market today that allow the cooling system to operate at a higher temperature before boiling over, increasing the system’s efficiency and reducing emissions
Tire Checks – According to the Car Care Council, around two billion gallons of gas each year could be saved if the tires on every American’s car were properly inflated. Optimal tire pressure for your vehicle is listed in the owner’s manual. Tires that are not properly inflated add rolling resistance that makes the engine work harder to move the vehicle. All of this increases fuel costs as much as three to five cents per gallon, and increases the risk of engine damage.
Gas Caps and Fill-Ups – Check your vehicle’s gas cap. Approximately 17 percent of vehicles on the road have loose, damaged or missing gas caps, causing 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize every year. Topping off your gas tank when filling up your car can also release harmful vapors into the environment.
A/C Maintenance and Use – The A/C system should be inspected annually, during which a technician checks pressures to test operation, refrigerant charge and outlet temperatures. Use the window to help keep the car cool.
Vehicle Fuel System - By properly maintaining your vehicle’s fuel system, such as replacing your car’s fuel filter every two years or 24,000 miles and having your fuel injectors flushed our every 30,000 miles, you will not only have a cleaner, ‘greener’ car, but you will save money at the pump.”
Emission systems - Emission systems control a vehicle’s emissions, exhaust and pollutants using an array of sensors, computerized engine controls and the exhaust components. Emission systems substantially reduce harmful gases such as carbon monoxide (CO), unburned hydrocarbons (HC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and prevent harmful gasoline vapors from escaping at the fuel tank. Your car’s emission system keeps the engine running cleanly and efficiently in all sorts of operating conditions, and keeping it in proper working condition can save money and protect the environment.
Maintain and repair your car as outlined in the council’s Car Care Guide. The guide helps drivers understand their car, the care it needs, and when it needs it and why. Single copies of the free guide may be ordered here on the Car Care Council Web site.
Questions to ask your mechanic
- What is the most important thing I should do to my car to make sure I’m doing my part to protect the environment?
- If my car emits a lot of exhaust, does this mean there’s something wrong with it?
- Is the refrigerant in my car environmentally friendly and if not, what should I do?
- Where can I take my used oil, oil filter and other fluids for recycling?