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Airbag Hazards: Pro and Con
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A Bit of Prevention …
Fall Behind
Choosing Tires for Wintertime Driving
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Tires Last Longer With Proper Care
Car Care Resolutions For a New Millennium
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A Bit of Prevention …

National Car Care Month is designed to promote clean air and get the message about the benefits of proper car care to consumers

By Peter D. duPre

We all know that poorly maintained vehicles run badly and often break down, but did you know that they waste fuel, are also a major source of air pollution and cost you extra money?

To help focus public attention on these problems the Car Care Council, in association with the governors of all 50 states, the American Lung Association, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association, American Automobile Association, Automotive Service Association, Department of Energy, the White House and others have declared October as National Car Care Month.

Coordinated by the Car Care Council (CCC), National Car Care Month has become a major public awareness campaign designed to improve road safety, air quality, and energy conservation through improved auto maintenance. October was chosen since it is a time when motorists traditionally prepare their cars for the rigors of winter driving and because during fall and winter stagnant air over many metropolitan areas results in higher emission levels.

The potential enormity of the auto pollution problem really begins to sink in when one considers that there are over 250 million vehicles on U.S. highways, with the number growing annually. Obviously, with this many vehicles on the highway, reduced emissions and improved fuel economy are important issues.

Better maintenance means cleaner air
The American Lung Association agrees that any program promoting reduced emissions is good. They point out that the noxious gases emitted by cars and truck are harmful to all, but particularly affect children, pregnant women, and persons suffering from heart and lung diseases. They suggest having the emissions system checked regularly.

The Environmental Protection Agency says people just don't realize the relationship between maintenance and emission levels. They say that 90 percent of the carbon monoxide and 50 percent of the hydrocarbon in the atmosphere in urban areas comes from automobiles and point out that if all vehicles were properly maintained, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide levels would be reduced by as much a 60 percent and nitrogen oxides by up to 10 percent.

A properly maintained vehicle also reduces dependence on imported oil. Currently, the U.S. imports over half the oil it uses and the Department of Energy (DOE) says this figure could be greatly reduced just by keeping our cars and trucks in good mechanical condition. DOE officials point out that we could save up to 800,000 barrels of gasoline annually simply by tuning up all the cars in the country.

Most cars need maintenance
According to Donna Wagner, Director of Operations for the Car Care Council, consumer information and maintenance programs that improve auto maintenance are definitely needed.

"If ever there were a question about the value of reminding people about the need for preventive maintenance, the following data taken compiled from 35 test lanes in 17 states during last year's inspection campaign should put the issue to rest," said Wagner.

"Over one out of every four vehicles (26%) failed inspection due to low or dirty motor oil," continued Wagner, "and an even higher percentage (35%) failed the emissions test."

Other findings from the annual test lane check included a 24 percent failure rate of belts and s 19 percent failure rate for hoses -- one of the most common causes of breakdown. In addition, 18 percent of the inspected vehicles had low tire pressures and 8 percent of inspected vehicles showed excessive tread wear. Overall, the net failure of any part of system was 83 percent or nearly nine out of 10 vehicles!

So even though most us already know that a poorly maintained vehicle gets poor fuel economy, pollutes the air and breaks down more often, apparently we aren't aware that it’s our vehicles doing the polluting. That's right, it isn't someone else; it's you. You can, however, become a part of the solution, and not the problem, by following these few maintenance tips:

  • Get a tune-up. A poorly tuned engine uses at least 10 percent more fuel than a well-tuned one, has less performance, and pollutes more.
  • Change the oil and filter. Regular oil and filter changes help the engine last longer by reducing internal wear that leads to pollution and shorter engine life.
  • Check the tires. Check the tires monthly for correct inflation -- weekly is better. Underinflated tires have increased rolling resistance, which devreases fuel economy. This shortens tire life and adversely affects handling.
  • Have the brakes inspected. Good brakes are important to automotive safety. Get yours inspected by a certified mechanic at least twice a year.
  • Get the emissions systems checked. A properly functioning emissions reduces air pollution and aids overall performance. Have an emissions-certified mechanic check the system.
  • Choose the right fuel. Use the correct grade of fuel as recommended in the owner's manual. Your vehicle will run better and pollute less. Using premium is a waste of money unless your vehicle has a high performance engine that requires the additional octane.
  • Check the lights. Make sure the headlights, taillights, turn signals, brake lights and emergency flashers are functioning properly. Have burnt out bulbs and broken flasher units replaced.