Monthly Archives: July 2011

It’s Not Easy Being Green…or Is It?

Motorists today are faced with a variety of environmental concerns as they shop for new cars and evaluate the impact of their current vehicles. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, these concerns about the environment are especially relevant considering that vehicles in the United States account for 45% of global automotive CO2 emissions, which are a major contributor to both climate change and pollution. Driving a hybrid or environmentally friendly vehicle is a great option for reducing your emissions, but don’t be left out of the green movement if you are not ready to make the switch over to these (often costly) options. There are several preventative maintenance steps that car owners (of any type of vehicle) can take to maximize the efficiency of their vehicles and minimize their footprint on the environment.

Tune Up
Keep your engine in tune by taking your car to your mechanic for regular preventative maintenance. A vehicle that is well tuned will use gasoline more efficiently and emit less toxic emissions. Cars running at optimum performance can also save you money as you will be getting better gas mileage.

Follow the Rules of the Road
Driving the speed limit is important not only for your safety and that of your fellow drivers, but this simple action can also help make your car greener. According to the US Department of Energy, speeding and rapid acceleration or braking can waste gas by lowering your gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent in town.

Fill your Tires
Checking the air pressure in your vehicle’s tires is an easy maintenance step that you can do at your home or local gas station that will help make your car more effective. According to the Car Care Council, almost two billion gallons of gas are wasted each year because American’s tires are not properly inflated which leads to resistance that makes the engine work harder to move the vehicle.

Chill on the Air Conditioning
Cutting back on your use of air conditioning may be unfathomable in the middle of summer, but if possible, opt for alternative means of cooling such as open windows and reflective coverings to maintain a cool environment. AC systems, especially in older cars, can deteriorate the gas mileage and increase the amount of emissions released into the air.

Check your Filters
Air filters help protect a vehicle’s engine from dirt and other outside damaging elements. Changing dirty air filters in your car will help the whole vehicle run more efficiently, which will save energy and fuel and reduce the negative impact of your vehicle on the environment.

Want to read more about saving money while keeping it green? Try Fuel Frugality: How Octane Levels Can Translate to Savings at the Pump and Hypermiling Basics.

 

~ R. Quick

Advertisements

10 Things Every Driver Should Keep in His or Her Car

A well-stocked car is a necessity for all drivers. You never know when you’ll need to make an emergency stop, when you might wander off course or when you might get into a fender-bender, just to name a few hypothetical situations. Because preparedness is so important for all drivers, the DefensiveDriving.com team has compiled a list of essential items we recommend you keep in your car year-round.*

In the glove compartment:
1. A flashlight and extra batteries, because you don’t want to risk getting stranded at night without one.
2. A disposable camera. Even though most cellphones come equipped with cameras these days, it’s a good idea to keep a disposable on hand in case you are involved in an accident and need to take pictures of the damage, license plate(s) of other cars involved, etc.
3. A prepaid calling card, because; let’s face it, no one gets cellphone service everywhere.

In your seatback pockets:
4. An atlas, because although most drivers have some sort of a GPS device, old-fashioned maps are reliable and don’t require plugging in, charging or wireless service.
5. An umbrella, because the forecast is never guaranteed.

In your trunk/luggage area:
6. Jumper cables and/or a battery jumper … just in case.
7. A tool kit, including pliers, a screwdriver, an adjustable wrench and a pair of work gloves.
8. A basic first aid kit, including a hand towel.
9. A few bungee cords, in case at any time you need to fasten anything down.
10. A safety reflector and emergency road flares, both of which are important if ever you need to pull over while driving at night.

There you have it: a list of the top 10 things you should keep in your car at all times. By following the guidelines outlined above, you’re sure to be one of the most prepared drivers on the road!

* Remember to keep your registration and insurance information with you and/or in your car at all times.

~ B. Waldman

15 Steps to Fuel Efficiency

If you’re like me, saving money and sticking to a budget are perennial New Year’s resolutions. Using less gas will put you a little bit closer to both of these goals. Here are fifteen tips for being more fuel efficient:

1. Avoid aggressive driving habits. Accelerate slowly and drive at a constant speed, as accelerating and decelerating waste gas.

2. If you’re on a highway, pick one lane and stay with the flow of traffic in that lane.

3. If you’re driving in the city, slow down before stoplights so that you don’t have to come to a full stop before the light changes.

4. Drive at or under the speed limit. Most cars experience a rapid decrease in gas mileage at speeds over 60 mph.

5. Idling burns gas too! If you’re stopped for longer than five minutes, consider turning off your car.

6. Avoid using the air conditioner.

7. Don’t drive with a roof rack unless you have to, as this creates drag.

8. Remove excess weight from your car. Clean out that junk!

9. Avoid driving at rush hour. Consider carpooling, biking to work, or using public transportation, even if only one day a week!

10. Combine errands into a single trip. Try to centralize as many errands as possible, so that you can walk between shops.

11. Park efficiently! Take the first space you see and then walk to the entrance. You’ll also get some exercise.

12. Wait until your tank is a quarter full and then refill completely, instead of buying gas in bits and pieces.

13. See if any local gas stations have cheaper prices on particular days of the week. However, don’t go out of your way to get a deal, as you’ll just be wasting gas getting there.

14. Make sure your tires are properly inflated.

15. Have your car serviced regularly to make sure that everything is working efficiently.

If you’re in the market for a new car, consider a more fuel efficient one. You can compare the fuel efficiency of different cars here:  www.fueleconomy.gov
Beware, however, of modifying your current car. A number of “gas saving” devices are on the market, many of which are not actually effective (some may even damage your engine.) For a list of EPA tested products, click here:  www.epa.gov/otaq/consumer.htm

Want to read more about saving money while keeping it green? Try Fuel Frugality: How Octane Levels Can Translate to Savings at the Pump and Hypermiling Basics.

Do You Hear What I Hear? Audible Vehicle Warning Signs.

The sounds that your vehicle makes can act as early indicator that there is a problem with your car, and as a smart driver, it is especially important to take heed of any new sounds or sounds that become louder and more frequent as they can lead to a larger problem and end up costing you more in repairs. A car is an elaborate composite of hundreds of moving parts, so some noises are common and to be expected, so make sure you take time to get to know its normal sounds so you will be more prepared to spot and troubleshoot anything out of the ordinary. An accurate description of the shake, rattle or roll can help your mechanic better diagnose your issue and get you back on the road in a safe vehicle.

Here are some noises that could mean trouble for your car:

• Engine knocking – Steady knocking noises from under the hood during driving can be indicative of loose connections within the engine or worn crankshaft bearings, which according to Just Auto Repair, a car website, is a common engine issue.

• Engine ticking – Less loud and “thump” like than engine knocking, this sound often occurs when the oil is low or dirty and needing to be changed. Make sure you have your oil changed regularly to avoid this issue.

• Metallic grinding during breaking – Screeching and grinding sounds emitted from your car during breaking are an indicator that your brake pads have worn through and the metal is rubbing together. This is something that needs to be fixed before further damage is caused and to ensure your car can break properly.

• Thumping tires – A steady thumping sound coming from the wheel region of your vehicle can be a sign of tires with insufficient air or uneven wear or flat spots. You should check the air pressure on the tires, fill where necessary, and opt for having the tires rotated or replaced if the noise continues.

• High-pitched squeal – This sound, especially when heard right when you are starting your engine and accelerating, can mean a loose or damaged belt within your engine. According to Popular Mechanics, this needs to be replaced before the belt snaps.

• Growling steering system – A low growl coming from the steering wheel or column may mean it is low on power steering fluid or that there is air in the system. Make sure you check your levels and ensure there are no leaks.

Also remember to keep an ear out for less obvious sounds such as hissing or dripping as well as they could be indicators of a slow leak of air or fluids, which could become exacerbated over time and lead to larger problems.

~ R. Quick

To read more on a broad range of subjects from “HowTo Change A Tire” to “HowTo Jumpstart Your Car”, visit DefensiveDriving.com’s Safe Driver Resources website!

 

Dealing With a Dead Car Battery

You are ready to hit the road when you jump in your car, turn the key in the ignition and wait for the rumble of the engine, but instead you hear nothing. Silence. A dead car battery is an unfortunate, yet commonplace technical problem that most drivers have encountered at some point. Instead of letting a dead car battery ruin your plans, take matters into your own hands and follow these simple steps to jump starting your vehicle.

1. Find a vehicle with a working battery and a set of jumper cables to perform the jump. Keep these cables in your trunk at all times, so you are prepared for this situation or in the event that you need to aid another driver.

2. Park the running car near the front of your dead car so the cables can easily stretch and connect the batteries in both of the vehicles.

3. Turn the ignition off in both vehicles before connecting the cables to prevent any unwanted surges that can damage the electrical system in either of the cars.

4. Locate the positive (+) and negative (-) side of each battery in both vehicles. These should be clearly marked, but you may have to wipe off residue to clearly see the indicator if the battery is older and worn.

5. Attach the red cable to the positive side of the good battery and its positive counterpart on the bad battery. Next, attach the black cable and the negative side of the good battery and the other clamp to any metal section in the dead car, such as an unpainted bolt. According to Auto Trader.com, you should avoiding connecting the clamp to the negative side of the dead battery is an important step to prevent sparks from flying in the vicinity of the explosive hydrogen gas that emits from the battery.

6. Start the engine in the car with a good batter and allow it to run for a couple minutes to help build up a charge in the battery.

7. Try to start the engine in the dead car. If you have done the process correctly, the engine should fire right up. If not, you may need to allow it to charge up for a few more minutes.

8. Turn off the vehicles and carefully disconnect the jumper cables. Be sure you do not allow the black and red cables to touch at either end while they are still connected to the other battery.

According to the Car Care Council, extreme temperatures are a major contributing factor in shortened battery life, so amidst this summer heat, be sure to have your battery checked out if it is older than 3 years or if you are planning on taking a long trip.

 

~R. Quick