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Greening Your Auto
In the Beginning
It is a belief that if you try to live more “green” that costs of living will decline. This is true where home life is concerned. Bring in an auto and costs seem to go up . . . considerably. Many want to drive a more fuel efficient and less environmentally impacting vehicle but many simply don’t have the monies to invest in a hybrid or electric options. So what can we do to at least take what we already are driving and make the best of it for the environment . . . and pocketbook? Forge ahead folks, there is a way.
Fun fact: Per a June 6, 2016, HybridCar.com report, 4,058,258 hybrid cars have now been sold. Hybrids first came on the market in 1999 and today there are over three dozen hybrid models. Per a 2015 report by Statista.com, the number of drivers in the U.S. was 218 million. Okay, for comparison sake, that’s 213,941,742 approximately of us driving around without a hybrid.
Hacks for Eco-driving
- At the top of the to-do list is caring for your car. Regular oil changes, tune-ups, and AC checks all help to reduce carbon output and improve gas mileage. Check the owner’s operating manual for recommended maintenance and when to perform. Yes, affording a car’s upkeep can be a bit daunting but there are things you can try to do yourself. Take a look at WikiHow’s article on, How to Repair Your Own Car without Experience. A straightforward, newbie guide to getting started on exploring this option. Try to service your car at least annually.
- An easy starting point in how to service your car is to learn how to adjust the air in the tires. Do you know that proper tire inflation not only reduces tire wear but contributes to improved gas mileage? Yup!
- Use a reusable air filter and keep it clean. A dirty air filter can impede performance as dirt begins to work its way into the engine. A clean filter prevents dirt build up, much like the filter on a clothes dryer, but it is easy to forget about. Reusable filters are often better built, do a better job at enhancing engine performance, and you don’t have to pay for another one or throw something into the trash for a considerable amount of miles. Schedule this task at least every 50,000 miles following manufacturers instructions for enhanced longevity.
- Speaking of filters, there is also a fuel filter to stay on top of. Check the owner’s manual again for the location and recommended times to clean or replace. Many manufacturers are changing the location of the fuel filter and it may be more difficult to address but performing recommended maintenance means keeping gas purer and causing less pollution down the line. Side note: many manufacturers have been building the fuel filter to be trouble free and requiring less maintenance. This is to answer to building cleaner, non-hybrid models.
Fun fact: The auto was first invented in Germany and France in the late 1800s. Henry Ford improved the idea with his redesigned methods for manufacturing making America a leader in car production. Per a U.S. News 2016 article, South Korea is at the top for best value cars, Germany for best luxury and reliability, U.S. for trucks, and Sweden for safest cars.
Hey, more options.
- Consider synthetic oil versus conventional oil at oil changes. Synthetic oil lasts twice as long as regular oil and resists temperature changes better due to lower volatility. Because you are changing oil less often this will contribute to a reduction in petroleum oil usage. There are new bio-oils being tested by Purdue University from canola crops that show promise. The cost of synthetic oil won’t save money, but the reduction in oil usage is key. And if you are a do-it-yourselfer, be sure to dispose of oil properly--not allowing it to run into the street drainage where it can reach water supplies. Take it to a local service station or auto supply shop for recycling - - as well as that air filter.
- If synthetic oil is not to your liking, opt for recycled or re-refined oil versions. These, too, will save on a nonrenewable resource and cost 85 percent less energy to produce.
- Next time you need to change your car’s battery opt for a refurbished version. A large percentage of an old battery can be recycled and put into a new battery, again saving precious resources. However, there are some drawbacks. Take a look at autos.com article on what to watch for. At least work with a dealer who will get your old battery to a recycling firm to contribute to any of its parts being provided a second life.
- Try not to run your car’s AC on warmer days. Instead, try a 12-volt personal air cooler unit. It’s small, plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter, and can keep you cool on long trips. These sell for around $40 but will reduce gas usage by not running the car AC unit. Additionally, keeping a cooler of ice packs and cold liquids also helps. Another toy, uh, tool, is a mini hand-held air conditioning fan. These have a compartment for an ice cold sponge that cools the air and runs at about $9 apiece. Don’t forget about the having the AC serviced for running at optimum performance as well as changing out the AC air filter inside your car. Yes, check the owner’s manual for its location. Aah! So many filters!
- Drive safely. Sudden stops, aggressive driving, and driving above speed limits not only mean you could drive attention to yourself – and a cop – but makes for more gas usage. Don’t idle for any longer than you have to.
- Don’t top off at the gas tank. When the pump clicks off, stop. Otherwise, gas fumes will escape into the air as well reach breathing space. Plus, as most gas is manufactured with an ethanol blend you can stick with a lower grade. Don’t be using a higher octane gas at the pump unless the owner’s manual states so. Otherwise, not only is money being wasted but if the car isn’t built to make use of the higher octane, stress on the engine could result. Lastly, check the gas cap to be sure it is offering a tight fit. Cracked, loose caps mean gas can evaporate into the atmosphere. What a waste!
Fun Fact: It was known since the 1920s that lead is a dangerous substance. Europe had banned its use for years. Workers who were part of the production of gasoline were taunted as having been exposed to “looney gas” due to their delirious behaviors. Research was conducted to try and understand the increasing illness and death of workers and authorities warned against the use of lead. Businesses geared toward this new car craze rose and lead, or more specifically tetraethyl lead, was deemed a low risk. Even President Calvin Coolidge ruled in favor of business. As more cars hit the road, more by-products also hit the air. This ingredient wasn’t used as a fuel but as an anti-knock ingredient in the fuel creating smoother rides -- a wanted selling point. Finally, in 1986, some 50 years later, lead was banned from the production of all gasoline. Sadly, this did not remove it from where it had already landed in the soil, building materials, or the lungs of innocent children and adults.
Wait... there's still more ways.
- Remove heavy items from the trunk. Don’t use your trunk as a storage unit. The heavier the car the more gas usage due to weight drag and more work getting from point A to point B. This includes the roof racks that create wind drag. Do continue to carry emergency supplies for safety. Just forgo that dead body in the trunk business.
- Whenever you are having your car serviced, even for an oil change, have the spark plugs checked. Spark plugs ignite the air/fuel mixture in the car. If spark plugs become dirty or wear down more work on the engine results and a greater amount of gas usage as well.
- Don’t forget to have the emissions system checked. Since the emissions system controls, well the emissions, of a car, making sure it is functioning correctly is very important. Fixing a faulty oxygen sensor will also improve gas mileage by as much as 40 percent, so have that checked as well.
- Finding a good mechanic can be as troublesome as trying to have a good relationship with your mother-in-law. Asking friends, checking Angie’s List and AAA are good places to start. Take a look at the Mechanics Files on cartalk.com. Knowing a good mechanic to develop a sound rapport with means not only maintaining your car at top performance but also help to run as green as possible with less spent on maintenance in the long haul.
- Let’s not forget to talk about how walking, bike riding, public transportation and ridesharing all contribute to greening a car. After all, when not using the auto, then there is no potential of polluting the air or using gas. Just think about how much healthier and sleeker you’ll be in the process. Yeah, baby!
- Mother Nature Network outlines various parts of a car that can be recycled during the life of the vehicle and after. Participating in recycling means giving a second life to parts that are otherwise polluting.
- Washing your car should not require a large usage of water. Take one bucket and fill with soapy water. Then take a second bucket and fill with clean water. Use two different sponges, one for each bucket. It's not really necessary to pre-rinse, just wash as usual. Then using the clean water and sponge squeeze water on the car to rinse. Dry as normal. Use the remaining bucket waters as grey water for watering plants.
I tend to look to For Dummies books as they are interwoven with bits of humor which makes me feel better about being a bit uneducated on a given topic. Greener living sounds so simple but I've come to realize that is not always so. Greener Living for Dummies, is a book I've read twice now and although I still can't afford every point recommended and know now what I can do to tweak what I've got to come closer to reducing my environmental impacts. This book also has three contributing authors: Yvonne Young, Liz Bartley, and Michael Ghosvenor which shows me a lot of work went into its 350 pages and my time won’t be wasted.
I’ve loaned this book to friends and am in the process of trying to get it back. Apparently it is getting passed around. Writing about environmental tactics makes me feel better about the world we live. Too often we hear about all the ugly going on. It helps to learn of the new technologies waiting to be incorporated into daily living.
Another reason I like For Dummies books is that you don't have to read front to back. They always write them to read at any chapter that works for you. I know this sounds like a sales job, but honestly, I try to incorporate all tactics I learn about and this is definitely been a good find in addition to being a good read.
Learn all you can about living more green from food, to utilities, even raising kids more green. Learn what is currently taking place with global warming and why. Learn how to reduce your contributions and decrease the carbon footprint.
Wow! Your saving money now!
So did you also notice how you will be saving money with all of these tactics? Car upkeep requires spending, but the longer one has a car the longer without a car payment. Keeping a car at optimum performance not only lowers its pollution factors but will ultimately lesser driving expenses.
What do you do to help keep your car less polluting? How have you found ways to not use your car and take a healthier strategy? Share or be square . . . or at least a little green.
TreeHugger.com, How to Go Green: Cars
AngiesList.com, Synthetic Motor Oil: Is it Better for Your Car?
TheThoughtCo.com, Synthetic V Conventional Motor Oil
OrganicLife.com, Eco-Friendly Car Wash Tips
BeCareAware.com, Go Green: Steps to a Greener Car
Wired.com: Looney Gass and Lead Poisoning. A Short, Sad History