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. 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- A properly maintained vehicle can improve its efficiency, reduce emissions and save you money. Regular engine performance maintenance will help you burn less gas, pollute less, and prevent car trouble down the line. This will include checking the spark plugs, replacing the fuel and air filters, replacing ignition system and/or emission system parts if needed and ensuring the onboard computer control system is working properly.
Improve gas mileage by 4% on a proper tune-up and up to 40% when fixing a serious maintenance problem such as a faulty oxygen sensor. Worn or fouled spark plugs can cause the engine to lose power or misfire and waste fuel.
Drive Smart – How you drive has a lot to do with fuel economy. Avoid sudden starts and stops and go the speed limit. Minimize unnecessary miles by combining errands in one trip. Drive wisely and minimize unnecessary miles by consolidating errands, getting good directions and avoiding excessive idling. Other guidelines to follow include:
- When possible, use your vehicle’s cruise control features.
- Use your air conditioning only when needed. Parking in the shade and using a reflective windshield shade can help your car stay cooler when parked, meaning it takes less to cool it off when you get back in.
- Speeding and Aggressive Driving: Most cars lose fuel efficiency over 50 miles per hour (MPH) at a rate of about $0.24 per gallon for every 5 mph over 50. Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) can also reduce gas mileage – as much as 33 percent on the highway and five percent on city streets.
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 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 that causes the engine to lose power. Replacing a clogged air filter will improve your car’s performance and acceleration, but not miles per gallon. The air filter should be inspected at each oil change, and replaced annually or when restricted, torn, water or oil-soaked.
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 – Proper tire pressure can improve gas mileage by 3.3 percent or 10 cents per gallon.
Tire pressure should be checked at least monthly, including the spare. Tires that are not properly inflated add rolling resistance that makes the engine work harder to move the vehicle. Remember, tires can lose pressure due to seasonal temperature changes. According to the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association, a tire can lose up to half of its inflation pressure and not appear to be flat. Optimal tire pressure for your vehicle is listed in the owner’s manual or on the car door sidewall.
Gas Caps – Check your vehicle’s gas cap. A loose, cracked or damaged gas cap allows gas to escape from your tank as a vapor, wasting fuel and increasing vehicle emissions. It’s also wasting your gas money!
Fill-Ups- When filling up your car, remember to stop when the nozzle shuts off! Topping off the gas tank can release harmful vapors into the environment and waste money. Remember, your tank needs some extra room to allow the gasoline to expand. Some pumps engineered to protect the environment draw extra vapors back into the pump, meaning you pay for more gas than you are getting, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
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. Fixing a faulty oxygen sensor can improve gas mileage by 40%!
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?