A greener ethos is something most of us strive for these days. Recycling is a part of our everyday lives and we eagerly jump on the green bandwagon, buying products touted as environmentally-safe. Marketers know that green features are a selling point while nonprofits make an effort to plug greener ideals as with the Earth Day infographic on the Kars4Kids website.
But even with our best efforts, some of the minutiae of living a green lifestyle can get lost in the sauce. We may purchase a car on the strength of its environmentally friendly design and give ourselves a pat on the (collective) back. Most of us, however, have no idea that proper vehicle maintenance is crucial for continued green performance. To that end, here are some green car maintenance tips to help you keep your car -- and the environment -- in tiptop shape.
The author's husband with a car that definitely would not meet today's emission standards (photo courtesy author)
- Maintain proper tire inflation. Tires are meant to be inflated according to the recommended pressure standard for your car. Information regarding your vehicle's recommended pressure is usually listed inside your car's doorframe, or look for it in the owner's manual. Maintaining tire pressure is important for efficient fuel use. A reduction of 3 pounds below the recommended pressure results in a loss of 1 percent fuel economy. Tires may lose up to 1 pound of pressure in a single month. Check your tire pressure at regular intervals, before any significant car travel, and before carrying large weighty loads. Flabby tires can affect driving safety, handling, and tire wear and tear.
- Purchase the new low rolling resistance (LRR) tires. Buying new tires typically lowers fuel economy by up to 4 percent. Replacing your tires with LRR tires, on the other hand, will actually improve fuel efficiency. All the major tire manufacturers are now producing these greener tires, so look for them when it comes time to replace your current set of tires.
- Keep an eye on your personal fuel economy. If you see a reduction in fuel economy after a few weeks this may signal some small problem with your brakes or engine. Fixing a minor problem now may prevent a major breakdown at some point down the line.
- Get regular tune-ups. If you're handy, do it yourself, otherwise take your car to a mechanic for regular tune-ups. Getting car tune-ups can increase fuel economy. You should have some instructions in your owner's manual on how to carry out the tune-up. In general, you should make periodic checks for worn out spark plugs, brake drag, and transmission fluid levels. Wheels should be realigned, tires rotated, and air filters replaced. When replacing transmission and other vehicle fluids, dispose of the old fluids in a safe manner or better yet, recycle them.
- Replace the oil and oil filter. Changing your car's oil and replacing its oil filter on a regular basis will keep your car running longer and will also help you save on fuel. The owner's manual that came with your car should give you guidelines on how often this should be done. If you have your oil changed at a gas station, check first to make sure they recycle the old oil. If you change the oil yourself, save the old oil and bring it in to be recycled. You can replace the old oil with recycled oil, too.
- Keep an eye on emissions. Get your emission control system checked out on a regular basis. If you see a warning light come on, it's time to get your emission control system serviced.