Sunday April 22 is Earth Day, but it’s always a good time to think about your impact on the world you live in. One of the great things about our cars and trucks is that we can take them out of the city to go enjoy the scenery all around us, whether you’re headed to a national park, the local lake, a camp site, or out on trails. Of course, if you have a favorite spot off the beaten path, you’ll want to preserve it so you can keep using, and maybe your kids and grandkids can too, someday. Offroaders know they have take good care of the trails so everyone can keep using them. That’s why so many offroading groups organize trail clean up events around the country from Michigan to the Pacific Northwest to the Southwest.
If you’re not an offroader, or you’re just looking for another way to take care of the environment, what are some other ways to keep things green with your car? Well, it turns out that maintaining your car and doing it right is the green thing to do.
Scientific American cites a study done by Toyota that found that 28 percent of the carbon emissions in a car’s lifecycle come from the manufacturing process, and the remainder is from driving. Maintaining your old car can be better for the environment than buying a new car, even one with better fuel mileage.
Here’s some repairs you can do keep things clean and some tips for how to make your repairs more environmentally friendly.
Car Maintenance to Reduce Emissions and Save Gas
Replace Your Air Filters
According to the Car Care Council, clogged air filters will make your engine run rich. That means the ratio of fuel-to-air in the combustion chamber is too high. A rich mixture increases your emissions and it robs your engine of power—a lose-lose situation. You might not think much about your air filter, but it’s really easy to change. Check it when you change your oil, and if it’s dirty or clogged with leaves, pine needles, or other debris, replace it.
Change Your Oil
Changing your oil regularly improves emissions, according to the EPA. It keeps the engine running smooth and reduces wear.
Check Your Spark Plugs
Spark plugs can get dirty or sooty from being exposed to repeated combustion. Then they might not spark properly, which can lead to misfires. Misfires waste fuel. Some modern spark plugs can last as long as 100,000 miles, but they’re relatively easy to access in most engines, so if you have a misfire, they’re worth checking. Naturally, you’ll want to replace them at the recommended service interval to keep your engine running right and avoid wasting fuel.
Check Your Tires
The Car Care Council states that proper tire pressure can improve your fuel mileage by about three percent. That’s because a properly inflated tire has less rolling resistance. The reduced rolling resistance also increases the lifespan of the tire, which keeps you from replacing it and keeps the old tires from ending up in a landfill (or the Springfield Tire Fire). This video can show you more about proper tire maintenance:
Replace a Bad O2 Sensor
The O2 sensor helps your car’s computer set the fuel-air mixture. A failed O2 sensor can cause emission problems and ruin your fuel mileage. Fortunately, they aren’t a wear item like filters or tires. If he code on your check engine light points to the O2 sensor, replace it sooner rather than later. According to the Car Care Council, replacing a bad O2 sensor can improve your gas mileage by up to 40%.
How to Make Your Repairs Cleaner
Dead batteries are full of lead and acid, neither of which you want leaching into the ground of water. So what’s the best way to dispose of them? Most shops will recycle them for you. Some scrap yards will even give you cash for your old batteries.
What happens to the batteries then? The Battery Council explains that the plastic case and the lead plates inside can be recycled to make new batteries. According to Earth911 plastic and lead are about 60-80% of the recycled material in a typical car battery. The acid can be used to make laundry detergent, can be treated to be used in a new battery, or can be neutralized and turned into mostly water.
Dispose of Fluids Properly
It’s important to dispose of your fluids properly, too. The Department of Energy and the Environment points out that anti-freeze runoff can end up in waterways and poison fish, and that one gallon of motor oil can contaminate one million gallons of water. That’s equal to a one year drinking supply for 50 people.
Thankfully disposing of fluids is easy. Just drain them into a metal or plastic container that you can seal. Don’t mix different fluids together. Some of them can be recycled, but not if they’re mixed. Once your container is full, you can take it to a shop or oil change place, who will be able to dispose of it properly. Mobil explains that motor oil usually gets recycled into fuel oil, or re-refined to be used as a lubricant again.
Clean Up Spills
Spills happen. It’s important to clean them up, because your car’s fluids can be dangerous to children or pets. You can clean up oil spills with a specially made absorbent or with kitty litter. This video can show you how to deal with oil spills.