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Kate on Cars - Apr 2014 - Tips for Keeping your Automobile Green


Kate on Cars - Apr 2014 - Tips for Keeping your Automobile Green

by Kate Jonasse

While most of us own automobiles, and automobiles have a significant carbon footprint, there are some things you can do to help keep your ride as eco-friendly as possible. Here are some tips for keeping our air and water clean:

Keep your car instead of buying a new one. Hybrids and electric vehicles are great, but before you go out and buy a new one just to save the earth and reduce emissions, consider this: studies by car manufacturers estimate that at least 12-28% of a vehicle’s carbon footprint occurs in the manufacturing and transport of it - before you even buy it. This figure may be grossly underestimated, considering all the factors to consider. It takes a great deal of energy to bring all the people and materials together to make an automobile.

Keep your tires properly inflated. You’ve probably heard it before, and here it is again. Proper tire inflation helps reduce your vehicle’s fuel consumption, which saves you money and puts fewer emissions in the air. Tires that are even a little under-inflated will reduce your gas mileage. Check your tire pressures at least once a month, and the next time you need to replace them consider low rolling resistance tires. New types of low rolling resistance tires can improve fuel economy while offering a better ride and safer grip than earlier ones.

Regular maintenance helps your vehicle’s engine run smoothly and efficiently, which keeps fuel consumption and emissions low. This includes “tune-up” components like spark plugs, air and fuel filters and fluids, as well as having your shop check your auto’s computer system regularly.

Fix fluid leaks promptly to keep oil, coolant and other contaminants from getting onto the ground and into our water. According to the EPA, just a few gallons of used motor oil can contaminate 1 million gallons of water – that’s a year supply for 50 people! If you change your own oil, make sure to take the used motor oil to an oil recycling center (we take used motor oil at K-Tech) that will dispose of it properly for you and ensure it gets recycled. If you’re topping off the engine oil rather than fixing the leak, think about where it goes when it drips out of the engine, and what happens when it rains and all that stuff gets washed away and ends up in our lakes and rivers. Let’s get those fluid leaks fixed.

Fix the check engine light. The check engine light is that light in your vehicle’s dash may say “check engine,” “service engine soon,” or be a picture of an engine with no words on it – this is not the oil change or maintenance light. The check engine light comes on when your car’s computer detects a problem that effects its emissions. Whatever is causing the check engine light to come on can also be causing increased fuel consumption, and causing other symptoms or damage to occur. Don’t ignore that check engine light – get it fixed!

Travel light. Remove excess weight in the car, and remove car-top carries or roof racks when not in use to improve fuel mileage and reduce emissions. This could save you up to 17% on fuel.

Change the way you drive. Accelerate slowly when you can, and lighten the lead foot. If you’re going to idle for more than a minute or so, turn the car off instead. Carpool or take public transportation.

Go easy on the air-conditioning. AC is great, it helps keep us cool and keep our windows defogged. It’s nice to have it there when we need it. But air-conditioning puts an extra load on the engine, reducing fuel mileage and increasing emissions. The same goes for driving with the windows open (I know, you just can’t win). Driving with the windows open increases drag and reduces aerodynamic properties of the car, which also reduces fuel mileage and increases emissions. An alternative is to turn the temperature to cool, hit the “econ” or “ac off” button, and hit the fresh air (no recirculation) setting to improve air flow in the passenger compartment. You’d be surprised how often this is enough to keep you comfortable.


Happy Earth Day!