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Maintain your car

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Maintaining your car is a proven way to improve your gas mileage and lessen air-polluting exhaust emissions. It also keeps your car running longer so its unsalvagable parts don't end up in landfills.

How to maintain your car

Keeping in tune with routine automotive maintenance is essential to the health and happiness of your heavily-invested-in two- (or four-)doored baby.

  • Keep good records: Non-autophiles will particularly benefit from recording work performed and/or needed in a log to stay organized and prevent possible car-tastrophes.
  • Know your manual: Don't wait until your car falls ill to seek help—familiarizing yourself with your owner's manual, as well as preventive auto maintenance is key.
  • Prevention is key: For many, getting down and dirty—whether it involves changing transmission fluid or replacing an air filter—is the most pleasurable aspect of car ownership. But if you're naive to the world of CV-joint boots and scared of sticking your hands into the belly of an automobile, take your car in for a check-up at a local mechanic or oil change/preventive maintenance center. There are a growing number of greasy but green auto repair centers that practice eco-responsibility.
  • Use safe disposal methods: If you're a DIY grease-monkey type, be sure to dispose of car waste in an environmentally-sound fashion and don't do something reprehensible like toss an expired car battery in your household trash or dump transmission fluid into a storm drain.
  • Don’t forget those round things made of rubber: Tires shouldn’t go neglected. Regularly checking to make sure they aren’t sagging and other preventive measures can improve your car's fuel economy.
  • Give it an eco-clean: Lavish your car with a thorough cleaning and an eco-sensible washing. Even if having a sparkling, spotless car doesn't directly affect emissions or mileage, cosmetic upkeep will prevent future problems, such as corrosion (which also helps your car last longer).

Want more ideas? Check out Edmunds.com, PartsAmerica, and Samarins.com, three authorities on the subject that lay out the basics of gas-saving auto maintenance.

Find it! Car maintenance supplies

Boost your car's fuel economy with a little internal cleansing for an even smoother ride.

Maintaining your car helps you go green because…

  • It can improve mileage as much as 40 percent and reduce the amount of air-polluting tailpipe emissions generated by your vehicle.[1]
  • It improves the longevity of your vehicle, keeping unsalvageable parts out of landfills and salvageable parts out of salvage yards where they pose environmental risks.

Two common automobile maintenance activities, engine tuning and the replacement of air filters, noticeably benefit the fuel economy of your car. Every gallon of gasoline burned releases 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, making the transportation sector responsible for about a quarter of overall US carbon dioxide emissions.[2] Engine tuning can improve a vehicle’s mileage by as much as 4 percent while replacing air filters on a regular basis not only protects a car’s engine but also improves mileage up to 10 percent.[1]

Keeping an engine properly tuned is also crucial in regulating a car’s tailpipe emissions. A car may fail a mandatory auto emissions test for several engine-related reasons. Automobile emissions in the United States have been regulated since the 1966 model year, following research that linked car exhaust with smog in Los Angeles. At the time, cars emitted nearly 13 grams per mile of hydrocarbons (HC), 3.6 grams per mile of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and 87 grams per mile of carbon monoxide (CO). Today’s standards are 0.25 gram per mile of HC, 0.4 gram per mile of NOx, and 3.4 grams per mile of CO.[3]

Additionally, regular automotive maintenance will extend your car’s life for as long as possible, keeping unsalvageable parts out of landfills. Even salvageable auto parts pose environmental dangers. Auto recyclers follow regulations in disposing of hazardous elements yet air, groundwater, and soil are all at risk of exposure to hazardous fluids and substances such as lead, mercury, and asbestos. Keeping a car in good, working condition also delays the purchase of a new car, which would require resource-intensive raw materials in its production.

Related health issues

Aside from the global-warming gas carbon dioxide, three major pollutants emitted by automobiles—hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide—also pose dire risks to human health. Specifically, when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide mix in sunlight and high temperatures, ground-level ozone is created. This leads to coughing, wheezing, and eye irritation, and can result in chronic lung problems. Carbon monoxide decreases levels of oxygen in the bloodstream and affects mental and visual functions.[4]

Glossary

  • automotive fuel economy: Fuel economy in cars is important because carbon dioxide emissions are directly related to the amount of fuel burned. "Miles per gallon," or mpg, is the way most Americans measure fuel economy, while other countries may use liters of fuel per 100 km traveled. To measure your fuel economy, fill your tank and reset the odometer. At your next fill-up, divide the miles traveled by the amount of fuel needed to refill the tank. For the 2008 model year, the EPA has updated its fuel economy test to reflect today's higher speeds, increased use of air conditioning, and other factors. In many cases, the published "window sticker" MPG values will be lower.

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