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Remove excess weight from your car

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Removing excess weight from your car is an easy and effective way to moderate both gas mileage and your carbon footprint.

How to remove excess weight from your car

Lightening your car's load may take a chunk out of your day, but you’ll be saving money—and the environment—in the long run. Those with burdensome commutes who essentially live in their cars should try taking a Zen approach and remember this automotive minimalistic mantra: An empty car equals a happy car.

  • Wash away weight: Start by taking your car for a spin through a local automatic car wash or treat it to an eco-friendly hosing down in the driveway.
  • Establish a clean slate: Next, take everything out of your car. Yes, everything.
  • Identify the essentials: Ask yourself the big question: What do I really need? It’s advisable to keep emergency supplies on hand—a spare tire, useful tools, a blanket, a gallon jug of water—unless you anticipate breaking down in front of a 24-hour mechanic/market/motel.
  • Be ruthless with junk: Now it’s time to confront the true junk in your trunk and ask yourself, What can I live without? Then find a new home for these items, whether it’s the garage or elsewhere. If it’s something you’ll need in the near future, keep it in a convenient spot to avoid unnecessary schlepping and hunting. Here are a few brain-stimulating questions to get your cleaning creativity going:
    • Do I need to be hauling around my golf clubs in the dead of winter?
    • Does my entire CD collection need to reside in the back seat?
    • Will the rooftop ski rack do me any good even though it’s July?
    • How will the car seat benefit anyone given that little Margot outgrew it five months ago?
    • I may live in Seattle, but do I really need twelve umbrellas back there?
  • Put it back together: Next, replace the bare necessities and mandatory supplies (your car may appreciate a thorough vacuuming first) and voila!—a clutter-free, environmentally friendly, gas-efficient car!

For those going on vacation and traveling by car—whether it’s a brief sortie into the great outdoors or a few days dictated by sand and sunblock at the shore—avoid using a rooftop carrier if you can squeeze everything into the car itself. Aside from adding extra weight and decreasing fuel economy, rooftop carriers add additional aerodynamic drag.

For more tips on gas conservation check out Open Travel Info.

Removing excess weight from your car helps you go green because…

  • Cars carrying excess weight consume more fuel and, in turn, emit more greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. Automotive emissions contribute to environmental hazards, such as global warming, smog, and acid rain, as well as various health conditions.

Americans use more than 100 billion gallons of gasoline each year. If that fuel were stored in a tank the size of a football field, the walls would have to be nearly 50 miles high.[1] 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] And because no combustion is perfectly clean, cars are also a primary source of local air pollution.

Every 100 pounds of excess weight carried by your car reduces your mileage by 1 to 2 percent. In terms of savings at the pump, you’ll be conserving 3 to 6 cents per gallon.[3]

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.


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.[4]

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