Family Finances and the Environment

According to the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), motorists can help the environment and their own finances by incorporating a few good practices. Regular vehicle maintenance and better driving habits are two simple ways any car owner can go “green” — both for the environment and one’s own wallet.

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 of the environment. Dispose of engine fluids and batteries properly. A single quart of used motor oil can pollute thousands of gallons of water. Antifreeze 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 agencies for information on proper disposal and recycling.
  • Keep tires properly inflated and aligned. If your air pressure is 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, which 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 dependable ASE-certified technician. Ask friends for recommendations. Check the reputation of the repair shop with your local consumer group. Check out the technician’s specific credentials. ASE-certified auto technicians are tested for specific skills and knowledge in national exams, such as engine performance, brakes or suspension.
  • Have your vehicle’s air conditioning system serviced only by a technician qualified to handle and recycle refrigerants. Older systems contain ozone-depleting chemicals, which could be released into the atmosphere through improper service. If you have used any over-the-counter remedies such as system sealants or self-service refrigerants, let the technician know prior to servicing the vehicle.
  • 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 last longer, too.
  • Consolidate daily errands to eliminate unnecessary driving. When waiting for friends or family, shut off the engine. Park in a central location at the shopping center, and walk from store to store, rather than drive from one end to the other.
  • Remove excess items from the vehicle. Less weight means better mileage. Remove that roof-top luggage carrier after vacations to reduce air drag.