Spring on the Road

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4 ways to make your vehicle more eco-friendly

Many new vehicles are made with the environment in mind, as more and more drivers are embracing eco-friendly features that reduce the carbon footprints of their vehicles. But motorists need not purchase new cars to make their driving habits more environmentally friendly. The following are a handful of steps drivers can take to protect the environment regardless of how new or old their vehicles are.

1. Maintain your vehicle.

Even if your car or truck has no eco-friendly features designed to reduce fuel consumption and cut down on emissions, that does not mean the vehicle cannot be more fuel-efficient or produce fewer emissions. Adhering to the maintenance schedule recommended in your vehicle owner's manual can conserve fuel and cut back on potentially harmful emissions. Well-maintained vehicles burn less fuel, as they don't force engines and other components to work as hard during operation as vehicles that have not been taken care of. Replace worn down or dirty spark plugs, which misfire and waste fuel, and fuel and air filters once they are no longer operating at peak capacity. Address any issues that arise with your vehicle's emissions systems immediately, visiting your mechanic if the vehicle seems to be sputtering or emitting any abnormal fumes.

2. Slow down.

Driving above the speed limit is not just dangerous but potentially harmful to the environment as well. According the United States Department of Energy, each five miles per hour drivers drive over 50 miles per hour is akin to adding an additional $0.14 per gallon for gas. That's because driving above 50 miles per hour is far less fuel-efficient than driving below that figure. So slowing down when posted speed limits mandate driving 50 miles per hour or slower is not just safer and more eco-friendly, it's better for your wallet as well.

3. Keep cargo off the roof.

When you must haul cargo, keep that cargo in rear-mount cargo boxes or the backseat or trunk of your car rather than the roof. Rooftop cargo boxes make vehicles less aerodynamic, reducing highway fuel economy by as much as 17 percent according to the U.S. DOE. By comparison, rear-mount cargo boxes reduce highway fuel economy by just 2 to 5 percent. If you haul cargo in your trunk, remove items when your trip is complete, as excess, unnecessary weight in the car will reduce its fuel efficiency.

4. Inspect the gas cap.

Few drivers may think to examine their gas caps while filling up at the pump, but such an inspection may reveal cracks or other damage that are wasting fuel. When gas caps are cracked, loose or damaged, fuel can escape gas tanks as a vapor, wasting fuel and contributing to emissions. If the cap is in need of replacement, consult your mechanic, the dealer who sold you your vehicle or the vehicle manufacturer.

Maryland Pennysaver