Be Green, Drive Green, Save Green | 12 tips to help preserve your car, cash and country.

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Be Green, Drive Green, Save Green

Money is tight for many, which shouldn't come as a big surprise to anyone during tough economic times. We understand that for those who have to do a lot of driving—especially on a limited budget—getting the most mileage for your money is crucial. Following our maintenance and driving advice, you can be green, drive green, and save green.

A well maintained car is a more efficient car. That means it will last longer, it will provide superior fuel economy, and it will pollute less. It'll also be safer and easier to drive. All that boils down to saving money, which even for those who might have more than others, is a good thing. But that's not all. Rethinking the way you drive can save you a lot of money at the pumps, because, if you work it right, you'll be able to pass 'em by more often, which also helps keep our environment green and clean longer.

So how's it done? Truthfully, it's not a tough job. Half depends upon vehicle maintenance while the other half depends upon driving habits. Check it out:

Maintain Your Ride.

1. Keep your engine in tune. Believe it or not, something as small as a single misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30 percent. Follow the respective service schedules listed in your owner's manual.

2. Replace filters and fluids as recommended by the manufacturer. Grease where mandated. Be sure to use recommended oil and fluids too. Many of the snake-oil magical products out there that guarantee better fuel economy simply don't work.

3. Check your tires for proper inflation on a regular basis (at least with each tank of fuel. Some folks check them weekly). Under-inflation wastes fuel because the engine has to work harder to move the automobile. Wheels that are out-of-line (as evidenced by uneven tread wear or vehicle pulling) make the powertrain labor as well. And that's not the end of it either: Tires that are properly maintained definitely last longer, which simply means that fewer old tires have to be discarded.

4. Lighten up. Less junk in the trunk means better mileage. The reason is the car doesn't have to pull or push all of that extra weight around. If you carry cargo in a roof rack, try removing it. You might be surprised at the difference in fuel economy.

5. Have the air conditioning system properly serviced. Keep in mind that A/C systems contain CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) gases that deplete the ozone layer. As a result, it's in the environment's best interests to have the air conditioner serviced by a pro who can capture the CFCs during service (instead of allowing the gases to escape randomly).

6. Buy the right gas. The vehicle owner's manual will detail the appropriate octane gasoline you should use for your vehicle. Using premium-grade fuel in a vehicle that calls for regular is simply more costly and will not improve economy in applications where the vehicle is designed to run on regular.

Driving Attitude Adjustment.

1. Slow down and observe speed limits. Mileage decreases sharply as the speeds increase. How much? Driving 60 miles per hour instead of 70 mph will save you 2-4 miles per gallon over the duration of an extended trip.

2. Be gentle on the throttle. Drive like there's an "egg under the gas pedal." Use cruise control on the open road to keep speeds as steady as possible. Don't accelerate quickly or slam on the brakes. Coast to a stop if possible. You'll save on fuel and, as a side benefit, you'll also reduce wear and tear on the brakes—which can save even more of your hard-earned cash.

3. Avoid idling. If you're stuck at a train crossing or waiting for a friend, turn off the engine (even if it's just for a minute or two). The minutes of idling add up, which translates into wasted fuel and an increase in exhaust pollution.

4. Keep the windows rolled up. Open windows on a car create aerodynamic drag. And that means the engine must work harder. It's said that open windows at freeway speeds can decrease fuel economy by as much as 10 percent.

5. Don't warm up your vehicle for excessive time spans. Today's modern electronic fuel injected engines really need less than a minute to warm up.

6. Plan your trips. Try to schedule so you can consolidate daily errands in order to eliminate as much unnecessary driving as possible. Scheduling your trips when traffic is light to avoid stop-and-go conditions can seriously reduce the amount of gasoline your car burns and, at the same time, reduces the emissions your car produces.

  • More in this category: Electric Vehicle Buying Guide. »

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