Car Care Counts

Automobile Efficiency Saves Energy, Money

While many people take good care of their automobiles, statistics indicate thousands of others don’t. One quarter of the vehicles on the road cannot pass emission inspections, according to the Car Care Council, while another 21 percent have under-inflated tires.

When it comes to the environment, this neglect spells trouble.”Every 60 seconds, 70 million gallons of water flow over Niagara Falls,” said Donald Midgely, president of the Car Care Council. “That’s how much gasoline is wasted every 10 days in this country by motorists who drive with under-inflated tires and poorly maintained engines.”

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In the past, service station attendants helped make motorists aware of possible problems. But now, 80 percent of all drivers pump their own gas. Surveys show self-serve gas customers don’t look under the hood or check their tires as often as they should, Midgely said.

“Vehicle maintenance is going down, not up,” he said. “As long as the car starts, most people are content.”

But according to the council — a nonprofit organization that promotes safety and environmental awareness through vehicle upkeep — nearly 90 percent of all vehicles need some sort of ignition work. Another 30 percent have low or dirty oil and 44 percent need to have their coolant checked.

A simple tune-up can do wonders for a vehicle and the environment. Dirty filters, worn spark plugs and under-inflated tires can have a dramatic impact on air pollution and fuel consumption, Midgely said.

“Typically, an engine that needs a tune-up will use 10 percent more gasoline than one that’s running efficiently,” he said.

Additionally, as cars get older, their problems get worse. Since the average car in America is 7.6 years old and has been driven about 80,000 miles, it’s important to give these cars plenty of attention, Midgely said. By properly maintaining these vehicles, they will last much longer and reduce contributions to junk yards and landfills.

“People treat their cars like their health — they wait for problems to develop before taking action,” Midgely explained. “But if all cars were properly cared for, we could save 2.2 billion gallons of gasoline in this country next year.”

Earth Tip: Tires can lose one pound of pressure for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Not only does this waste gas, but it wears out the tires more quickly.

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