Green Up Your Vehicle: How to Approach Car Repair and Maintenance with a Conscience

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More and more car owners are concerned the way they repair and maintain their cars has a significant impact on the environment. While no one expects you to leave your car to morph its color to ‘dust brown’, spending gallons of shampooed water for regular cleaning is just as bad. Still, there are many environmentally-friendly ways to keep your car in top shape. 

Wash it yourself

If your car needs a full keel to mast treatment, consider doing the chore yourself. While commercial car washes are fast and pretty efficient at what they do, they have yet to earn their green certificate. Not only do they waste a lot of water, on average using between 40 and 50 gallons per car, but they owe much of their effectiveness to harmful chemicals.

Use 2-buckets system

Washing the car yourself doesn’t mean you should do it with a garden hose, splurging even more water than a car wash would. Also, soapy runoff from your car wash can easily seep into storm drains, which means it returns to the ecosystem without treatment. Instead, use two buckets – a few gallons of soapy one and a few more of clear water. Use a special care washing glove which doesn’t damage the high sheen of your car. Rinse with non-soapy water and wipe everything dry using a microfiber cloth. 

Consider green interior cleaners

Although most commercial interior cleaners will do the job, just look at all the warning signs on the back label about the hazards of inhalation, skin contact, and the rest. These products often contain ammonia, as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can end up both in your lungs and atmosphere. However, these days you can find ammonia-free interior cleaners using only natural scented oils and cleaning agents, so you can breathe freely, harming neither yourself nor the environment

Let the dampness evaporate

There are many ways to introduce moisture into your car – you can be caught in a rain or shower, or you regularly visit the pool or gym. In either of these cases, your car interior is going to absorb some moisture as you drive home. Once you reach a dry and secure location, open the windows and let the car dry out overnight. This way air can flow freely inside and out which reduces the chance of mold build-up. 

Prevent odors with dryer sheets

Once your car interior develops unpleasant damp odors, only industrial-grade cleaners can eliminate them. However, there are eco-friendlier ways to keep smells at bay than using air-fresheners. For example, you can place an open box of biodegradable dryer sheets under your front seat, or even stuff a couple of them in different crevices and compartments. The pleasant fragrance of these sheets comes from biodegradable essential oils, not cocktails of chemical deodorants. 

Get a protective cover

If your car is left outside, it faces the elements even when no one drives it. Snow, hail, and rain can take a toll on your car, not to mention the abrasive dust and sand which can damage the paint and finish, calling for expensive touchups. By using protective car covers you also reduce the need for frequent washing, especially if your car is parked under trees which drip sap or house a small bird colony. Fewer washes mean less water and detergents flushed down the drain. 

Upgrade to eco-friendly tires

Make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended PSI at all times, as underinflated tires can cost you up to 10 cents for every mile of the road, not to mention the increase in carbon exhausts. If you want to go one step further, invest in high-efficiency tires with reduced rolling resistance. Not only will they pay off themselves through fuel savings, but they increase your MPG rate. 

Inspect the emission system 

Many drivers ignore oxygen sensors until the ‘check engine’ light comes on. These sensors are an important part of the mechanical system, and a dead sensor can reduce the car’s efficiency by staggering 40%. Just like many other components, oxygen sensors can be checked using an onboard diagnostic device (OBD). 

Reduce energy use

AC defrosting setting and seat heating are convenient, but use a lot of energy. Keep in mind, everything that is powered in your car uses gasoline, so use these gas-guzzling features sparingly and remember to turn them off when you don’t need them. When cruising along on a hot summer day, roll down the windows and enjoy the fresh air rather than use the air conditioner. 

Dispose of oil responsibly

If you prefer changing your motor oil at home instead of a repair shop, make sure to dispose of it with care. Local environment agencies often include lists of places you can recycle used motor oil, while many repair garages will also do it for a small fee. 

Earth-friendly maintenance tips and tricks listed here range from simple adjustments of how we use our vehicles, to more lasting investments that protect both your car and the environment.

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