Photo: Drive smarter for a better planet

(Credit: mark.woodbury via Flickr.)

Driving is the most polluting thing that most of us do. Burning gasoline, or any other fossil fuel, releases pollutants that cause smog, global warming, and water pollution.

Extracting, refining and transporting fossil fuels also causes pollution, so the less gasoline we use, the better!

In total, of the average Canadian household's environmental impact, transportation accounts for:

  • almost half of toxic air pollution
  • more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions
  • almost 20 per cent of toxic water pollution

Driving smart can reduce this pollution — helping protect nature and our health!

Keep your vehicle in shape

Read the owner's manual: Follow the maintenance recommendations in your owner's manual. You'll maximize fuel, optimize its resale value, save on repairs, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Change the oil: Frequently changing your oil is one of the best ways to keep your engine in top condition. Your owner's manual will tell you what type of oil to use and how often it needs to be changed. In Canada, the average time between oil changes is every three months — about 5000 km. The best oils for fuel economy are labelled "Energy Conserving." Remember to recycle your old engine oil — just one litre of oil can contaminate two million litres of water!

Maintain the mechanical systems: Unmaintained mechanical systems can affect fuel performance. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for engine, cooling and ignition system, brake, drivetrain and emission control system checks. For more info on driving your vehicle.

Check your tires: Operating a vehicle with just one tire under-inflated by 6 psi (40 kPa) can reduce the life of the tire by 10,000 km and increase the vehicle's fuel consumption by three per cent. Check your tire pressure monthly, and on days when the temperature has dropped significantly. Rotating tires also helps prolong their life and improves fuel economy. For most vehicles, tires should be rotated every 10,000 km — about twice a year.

Drive smart!

Don't idle: Unnecessary idling wastes fuel and harms your vehicle. If you're stopping for longer than 10 seconds (except in traffic of course!), turn off the engine. More than 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting. Turning the key is all it takes to save money and prevent unnecessary greenhouse gases and other pollutants from escaping into the air. For more information check out the Idle-Free Zone website.

Travel light & pack smart: Avoid hauling unnecessary loads. Extra weight increases pollutants and decreases fuel economy. Placing large objects inside — instead of on the roof — maintains an aerodynamic profile which improves mileage.

Accelerate smoothly: Jack-rabbit starts consume up to 50 per cent more fuel than steady accelerations. Hard accelerations also wear out your engine and tires faster.

Minimize air conditioning: To stay cool on the highway, use your car's flow-through ventilation. When driving in the city, open a window. If you must turn on the AC, set the controls to a comfortable level and shut it off once you're cool enough.

Warm up your car: In winter, use a block heater to warm your engine before you start it. Cold engines burn more fuel and emit more exhaust. Block heaters can improve overall winter fuel economy by as much as 10 per cent. More tips on winter driving.

Plan ahead: Reduce your driving time by combining errands and avoiding traffic congestion. Give yourself lots of time — hurried driving causes you to brake more often and accelerate more quickly. More Auto$mart tips.

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