We all know that our automobiles can be some of the largest contributors to noxious carbon emissions and environmentally hazardous greenhouse gases, but for most of us suburb dwellers, owning at least one family car is a matter of necessity.  We’re always on the move, whether it’s chauffering the kids off to soccer practice, keeping doctor’s appointments, or just heading down to Wal-Mart to pick up the groceries.  With all of these trips, the emissions from your vehicle have the potential to significantly impact the quality of the air around us.  With that in mind, I’d like to share a few steps that you can take to quickly and easily make your family car a little friendlier towards the environment.

                First, be sure to check your air filter regularly, and replace it when necessary.  Always refer to your Owner’s Manual for the exact guidelines for your make and model, but an easy way to remember is to change the air filter when you stop for every other oil change.  Sure, you could have the Jiffy Lube technicians do this for you as long as they’re already under the hood of your car, but changing an air filter is such an easy job that it’ll save you a bundle if you pick up the part and just change it yourself.  You probably won’t even get your hands dirty doing it, but I guarantee that you’ll be amazed once you see how much dust and pollen has built up on your car’s air filter.  That gunky buildup will keep clean air from circulating into the engine properly, creating a situation which will reduce the fuel efficiency of even the most economical import car.

                Next, I recommend taking about five or ten minutes once a week to check your vehicle’s tire pressure.  Underinflated tires are one of the biggest causes why otherwise good cars will experience less-than-normal fuel economy, especially when you’re talking about larger vehicles like those four wheel drive trucks or sport-utility vehicles.  The way I see it, dropping five dollars on a nice tire pressure gauge with a digital readout is a smart investment that will almost certainly pay for itself within the first few weeks of having it.  Just as before, you should refer to your Owner’s Manual to determine the correct amount of tire pressure for your vehicle.  Be careful to avoid overinflating your tires, as this has the potential to increase wear on the radials.

                Finally, do your best to plan your car trips carefully.  This might sound strange at first, but if you take an extra minute or two to plan your route before you even leave the house, you’ll be able to literally cut hours off of your weekly driving time.  More importantly, keeping your car running for fewer hours is the best way to cut down on your monthly gas bill!  I recommend planning each trip with a route that uses as few left turns as you can, just so you won’t burn any extra gas while idling at a stop light.   Grab a piece of paper and write down a list of all the places that you need to visit and all the things you need to do in a single trip, just so you don’t wind up backtracking all over town when you’ve forgotten something! 

                Remember, even though owning a car might be a necessity for your family, that’s no reason why you can’t still be conscious of your environmental impact.  It only takes a little extra effort to improve your car’s fuel efficiency, and greatly reduce your monthly expenses!