Earth Day Every Day
Earth Day has a special urgency for motorists
this year, given the recent increase in gasoline prices and
renewed concerns about the amount of oil that is imported.
According to officials with the nonprofit
National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE),
motorists can help the environment and their own finances
by altering a few habits. So instead of waiting for hybrid
vehicles, you can make a difference now.
ASE recommends regular vehicle maintenance
and better driving habits as two simple courses of action.
Here are a few specific, easy-to-implement tips from ASE:
- Keep the engine running at its peak performance
-- a misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as
much as 30 percent. Replace filters and fluids as recommended
in the manual. A well-tuned engine pollutes less and uses
less. Moreover, neglected engine performance problems can
cause costly repairs over time.
- If you do your own repairs, be a good
steward. Dispose of engine fluids and batteries properly.
A single quart of used motor oil can pollute thousands of
gallons of water. Anti-freeze poured on the ground can poison
wildlife and household pets. Check around at local repair
facilities to see if they accept used fluids and parts,
or call your local government for information on proper
- Keep tires properly inflated and aligned.
If your air pressure is just a few pounds low, you force
the engine to work harder, and burn more gasoline. Tires
that are misaligned also make your vehicle work harder.
Consider too that poorly maintained tires wear out faster,
and that means more discards have to be scraped, recycled
or sent to the landfill.
- If weekend car tinkering is not your
idea of fun, find a good technician. Ask friends for recommendations.
Check the reputation of the repair facility with your local
consumer group. Check out the technicians’ credentials.
ASE-certified auto technicians have passed one or more national
exams in specialties such as engine performance and air
conditioning. And shops that employ these certified pros
often display the blue and white ASE sign on the premises
and post their technicians’ credentials in the customer
- Have your vehicle’s air conditioner
serviced only by a technician certified to handle and recycle
refrigerants. Older air conditioners contain ozone-depleting
chemicals, which could be released into the atmosphere through
- Avoid speeding and sudden accelerations.
Both habits guzzle gas and put extra wear and tear on your
vehicle’s engine, transmission, steering and suspension
system, and other components. Use cruise control and anticipate
traffic patterns ahead. As a side benefit, your brakes will
- Consolidate daily errands to eliminate
unnecessary driving. When waiting for friends or family,
shut off the engine.
Remove excess items from the vehicle since less weight means
better mileage. Remove that roof-top luggage carrier after
vacations to reduce air drag.
While there is no single vehicle that’s
ideal for every lifestyle, good car care allows you to maximize
gas mileage for your particular make and model, and thus saves
you money and helps the environment.