25 Tips For Making Your Own Car Greener Instead Of Buying A Hybrid.


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Photo by freeparking

Although you could go out and buy a Prius (and believe me, I would like one), there are some things that you can do to make your existing ride a little bit more green and environmentally friendly for a lot less money. Of course, using a car sharing service or taking public transportation is the best way, but it is not always feasible. If you have anything you think should be on the list that I missed, please be sure to leave it in the comments!

1. Make sure your tires are properly inflated. And don’t try to lie to me, I know you have not checked lately – not many people have. The proper inflation should be on the sidewall of each tire, so it’s not something you have to remember. Even if you only do it once a month, you can save a lot of gas (and money) by making sure they are properly inflated.

2. Go the speed limit. I know it’s hard – it’s a constant battle for me as well. But by sticking close to the speed limit on the highway (normally 65), you can save a lot of gasoline

3. If you own an SUV but never go off-roading, do you need monster truck tires? Didn’t think so…next time you need new tires, get some regular tires without the big traction treads and save money and gas.

4. Open the windows. If you can live without it, try driving without the AC on. Using the heat does not use any more energy, but running the AC uses a lot more. So if it is OK outside, just try just opening the windows. Drag can sometimes be a factor, but on an older car, it is still more efficient than running the AC.

5. Get a tune up. Newer cars might not need them as often (our Mini doesn’t), but older cars usually need to be tuned up once in a while. Getting the car tuned up can improve MPG and save you money on future repairs.

6. When the weather is warm, refuel early or late. If you can avoid the direct heat of midday, you can help stop evaporative emissions being pushed out of your tank during the day.

7. You don’t need to warm up the car before driving it. Well, if your car is a newer model you don’t. Older cars do like to be warmed up before taking off in cold weather, but newer ones don’t need it. Just turn the key and drive away slowly until it warms up!

8. Get a K&N reusable air filter. When your air filter needs replacing, pick up a K&N (or equivalent) air filter that you can use for the life of the car. It just needs cleaning once in a while!

9. Try to use synthetic oil next time you get it changed. It only costs a few bucks more, but it helps your engine run smoother and more efficiently.

10. Avoid aggressive driving. Again, it can be difficult not to stomp on the gas when the light turns green, but really – do you need to be first to the next stop light?

11. Clean out the trunk. Are you carrying around extra weight in your rear? (That’s funny, no?) Empty out all your gear other than your spare tire and your emergency kit and stop dragging those extra pounds around – they use gas!

12. Don’t top it off. At the pump, we all have a tendency to try to squeeze out those last few drops to round up the next dollar. Well, the fumes that escape and the gas that drips out afterwards are not good for the environment!

13. Park in the shade when you can. If your car is cooler when you go to drive it, you don’t have to blast the AC right away.

14. Unless you drive a Ferrari, you probably don’t need premium gasoline. Seriously, look it up. Most newer model cars, even if it says that they need it, run fine on regular unleaded gas. I have never bought anything but regular unleaded for all my cars and I have never had a problem. Saves you some money, and could help make the air cleaner according to some studies.

15. Join a carpool. Have a co-worker that lives near you? Why not split the drive to work each week! You can drive Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week, and Tuesday and Thursday next week. Not only do you save wear and tear on your car and your wallet, but it takes one more car off the road on a daily basis.

16. Turn off the engine. If you are going to be sitting for more than 30 seconds (at a light, picking up a friend), turn the engine off. Why spend money to power a car that is not going anywhere…there is a reason the Prius turns off at stoplights!

17. Use your cruise-control. I get much better MPG on the highway when I use it rather than trying to stay a steady speed with my foot.

Want some crazier ideas? 🙂

18. Only drive with a tailwind.

19. Drive along the painted white line.

20. Put the top of your driveway at the top of a hill.

21. Park face out so you can skip going in reverse.

22. Draft behind a semi-truck. (Not for the feint of heart).

23. Turn off the engine down big hills. (You might want to leave the car on and only turn off the engine – you might need to steer).

24. Push your car out of your driveway in the morning.

25. Map a route without lights or stop signs.

So, how would you green up your existing car? Anything not listed here?

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  1. Some good ideas here, but the crazier ones are just that — crazy. I wouldn’t recommend driving behind a semi or turning off the engine while you drive. The risk is not worth it.

  2. I hope you don’t really believe the recommended air pressure for your tires is on the tire themselves. Just think, those tires are made for 20 different cars and not all cars use the same inflation. You should use the sticker on the driver’s side door jam which will tell you the correct inflation for that particular vehicle and tire size. You could’ve caused another Ford Explorer rollover issue like the early 2000s!

  3. the air pressure on the door only pertains to the tires the manufacturer puts on the car. If you buy different tires, you need to fill them up to their own specs.

    And Pinyo, I agree – thats why they are in the crazy category!

  4. I enjoyed the post, some interesting suggestions. The crazy ones are a bit crazy but creative, which I always appreciate it. Might want to think about adding a disclaimer to that section though:)

  5. Some of those suggestions are good, like only going 65 and accelerating slowly. But not using AC? Studies show it saves a max of 1 mpg, much less than some of the other tips. Not to mention that you might not be driving as well without a controlled climate in your car either, which can make you less of a safe driver on the road.

    Another good (not crazy) tip is to coast whenever possible, ie take your foot off the gas once you see a red light or stoplight up ahead.

  6. Chris, I don’t doubt that you know what you are talking about for the most part. However, I have been told that one should pay attention to the tire because not everyone puts the exact same brand/size of tire on their car as replacements. Since the pressure on the door jamb is supposed to be for the manufacturer’s recommended tires, if you change tires, you might not need the same pressure because of sidewall strength, tread type, performance rating, etc..Maybe I am wrong, but this is what I have been told by both an Audi service manager and the guys at my local tire place. Could they both be that far off? I actually am curious now…

  7. Don’t need premium gasoline? If your vehicle manual states to use high octane fuel then yes you do need to use it. High octane fuel allows for increased compression and without using this fuel one an engine designed for it, you can damage your engine and void your warranty.

    Turning off your engine is just unsafe.

  8. I agree Ciaran, I suppose it could use one…

    As for Cogito – look it up – your regular old car does not need premium unleaded gas and it does not void any warranty. Like I said, I have run regular in all my cars (2 Audi’s as well) and have not had a single problem. And no dealership ever told me I had to run it or else…

  9. David,
    You are somewhat mis-informed. The car manufacturer states a size they recommend for a car (P195/75r15) for example. If you put that same size on you should use the door jam specs regardless of brand. You shouldn’t really be putting different sized tires on the car, since the companies pay engineers big bucks to figure out what to make the car safe. People change sizes all the time, however. But the standard psi of “30-35” will do you much better than the 60 psi max for most tires. Over-inflation will cause your tires to wear pre-maturely in the middle of the tread from the ballooning of the tire. I challenge anyone here to inflate their tires to the 60psi max stated on the side of the tire and “feel safe.” I have been certified by Firestone and Goodyear and my father has owned a tire store for 19 years so I promise you I’m not wrong. I just want the readers to be safe.

  10. Chris,

    This is a collective set of *REALLY* bad advice. Readers, please take note that a lot of these activities will not improve your mileage, might damage your engine (and void your car’s warranty), be illegal, and endanger your safety.

    Let’s really take a look at them:
    Advice # 1,2,3: These are all sound advice. These will save gas. They are also common sense. If you maintain your vehicle and don’t drive aggressively, and maintain a constant speed, you will probably see your peak mileage.

    #4 is bad advice. The pulley that powers your A/C is always spinning when your engine is running. Unless the chain/belt breaks — and believe me, when it breaks, you’ll notice the sudden increase of 10-20hp going to the wheels. In other words, running with A/C on doesn’t really hurt your mileage anymore. Consumer Reports (a much more reliable source than this blog) actually found A/C to be more efficient when driving over 50mph. This is because the increase in drag factor of two open windows on your car is more detrimental to mileage than A/C.

    #5 is good advice. Again, maintain your vehicle and it will be good to you. 6 and 7 also make sense.

    #8. I recommend this as well. Unless you have a newer vehicle that ships with a reusable foam filter instead of a paper one. Then there’s really no point.

    #9. Do not change what type of oil you use in your car. Do not change what type of oil you use in your car. Do not change what type of oil you use in your car. Once an engine is broken in with a type of oil, that’s what its “used” to. Switching oils can cause problems with your lifters and fuel injectors. In other words, be prepare to replace some engine parts if you do this. And there’s absolutely NO EVIDENCE that synthetic oil will give you better mileage. It might let you get away with not changing it as often, but any mechanic will tell you its still good to change it at the recommended frequency, no matter how good the oil and filter are. THIS IS SERIOUSLY IGNORANT ADVICE.

    10,11,12,13: All common sense.

    14: Use the recommend octane for your car that’s listen in the manual. A lot of vehicles these days are shipping with turbo — to boost up the mileage and maintain the ‘sportiness’ expected by the American leadfoot. Turbo with a lower octance gas is a quick way to a ruined engine at your expense. Also, even if you don’t have turbo, the valve timings are based off octane — your engine can “slow down” its compressing and timing as a way of self-preservation, but its not a long term survival strategy. Using a lower octane than needed for your car can ruin its engine. On the other hand, buying better gasoline then your car is tuned for is worthless.

    15: Do this. Also, use public transportation (as long as its not a bus, since they pollute more than 200 cars).

    21: This makes no sense. Unless you pull through, you have to park in reverse anyway.

    #22: This is unsafe. I wouldn’t give people I don’t know advice that might land them in the hospital. With america’s liability laws, you could be paying for their new car.

    #23: This is not only dangerous, but its illegal in most states. Again, not my blog, but on my blog, I wouldn’t be giving people advice to break law — especially not to save 2-3mpg. There are “hypermilers” out there — people dedicated to getting more than the EPA estimated mileage out of their car, and they do this — its called DFAS. I would get in touch with “veteran” hyper-milers for training before attempting something this dangerous and stupid. Or i just wouldn’t do it.

  11. So Chris, 12 of the total 25 you think is good advice. The last three you mention were put in as crazy ideas, not real ideas. So that means that you think 12 of the 18 “real” ideas are good ideas so I am curious how you can say that “this is a collective set of *REALLY* bad advice”. That’s 2/3 good vs. 1/3 bad = “collective set of really bad advice”? – that’s some weird math. Let’s look at some of your points:

    You actually backed some of this one up: “Consumer Reports (a much more reliable source than this blog) actually found A/C to be more efficient when driving over 50mph. ” – so I guess that means under 50 it is more efficient with the AC off, right? I read that report too and that’s what it said.

    Separate from better mileage, synthetic oil is better for your car and can help it last longer – ask any mechanic who deals with high end cars what they use.

    The last ones you complain about were put in as crazy ideas…and were labeled as such. So I am still trying to figure out how this is all
    “a collective set of *REALLY* bad advice” and why you took the time to basically contradict your own statement throughout your comment. 🙂 But thanks anyway for taking the time.

  12. There is a safer way to coast down hills than turning off the engine, esp. if you use a manual. Just use the clutch to put your car into neutral, but leave the gear in the appropriate spot. That way, if you suddenly need some power, you don’t have to worry about getting the engine started. Sure, you won’t be saving as much petrol as having the engine off, but you’re still going to save more than if you leave it in gear.

    And with the A/C – studies have shown that it’s about 50mph that having the windows open is less effective than AC. So how often are you going to be above 50mph? There’s a few major roads around my place that are above 50mph (or 80km/h – we use km’s in Australia) and the freeways/highways, but a lot of my driving would be on roads that are less than that, so this is still sound advice.

    I’ve also read that for tire pressures, on new tires, you should go with the pressures stipulated on your car for the first two or three weeks, and then go to the tire wall pressures.

  13. Some of these make no sense whatsoever. Turn off the engine at a stoplight? It burns more fuel to re-start your car at every stop light than if you just leave it running for a minute.

  14. The last few were supposed to be “over the top”, but just so you know David, all hybrids turn their engines off at stops – it does not waste more gas to turn them off and start them up. In the old days it used to, but not anymore.

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