Automobile emissions can be minimized by ensuring proper maintenance and considering certain operational strategies or driving behaviors that optimize efficiency. Many of these practices also improve fuel economy, which saves money on fuel and reduces wear and tear on your vehicle. The North Central Texas Council of Governments has developed an Air Quality Training Manual to assist fleet managers and vehicle operators in maximizing performance while minimizing pollution.
Proper maintenance helps improve engine performance and can extend the life of a vehicle, but it also can help reduce emissions by keeping all the vehicle components in good working order. Modern vehicles have sophisticated engines and on-board computers that alert the owner through sensors or warning lights when something is not functioning properly, including the emissions control system. If a warning light is on, be sure to check the owners manual and/or take the vehicle to a service center promptly. Regular checks of major vehicle systems can help prevent future problems, including the following:
- Check tire pressure and look for uneven wear or embedded objects; also check tire pressure when temperatures change suddenly.
- Check for fluid leaks around the vehicle, the undercarriage, and on the ground, including fluids from the fuel system.
- Check fluids for proper color and level.
- Check under the hood for cracked or split hoses or wires, corrosion on the battery, or loose clamps.
- Check the brakes.
- Follow manufacturers' recommended maintenance, including routine oil and filter changes.
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Proper operations and driving habits can optimize engine performance, which saves fuel and money, and also help minimize emissions.
- Drive Sensibly - Speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking wastes gas and therefore increases emissions.
- Observe the Speed Limit - Every vehicle has a different "sweet spot" when it comes to speed and fuel economy, but gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. The Department of Energy estimates that for every five mph over 60 mph, you pay another 24 cents per gallon of gas.
- Remove Excess Weight - Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle. Extra weight can decrease fuel economy and increase emissions.
- Avoid Excessive Idling - Idling causes unnecessary emissions from vehicles and has zero miles per gallon. Many idle-reduction solutions, both operational and technological, are available.
- Use Cruise Control - Using cruise control when possible on the highway helps maintain a constant speed and will help save gas in most cases.
- Use Overdrive Gears - When you use overdrive gearing, your car’s engine speed goes down. This saves gas and reduces engine wear.
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