If you’ve decided that a New Year’s resolution to drive greener just isn’t doable, park that thought. You don’t have to drive a hybrid or even reduce driving to make a difference.
“The number one, with a bullet, most conscientious thing a car owner can do for the environment, and especially for our air quality, is to properly maintain the vehicle,” says Christopher Dann, public information officer for the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division.
It’s not just the smoke-belching clunker that affects our air quality.
“When temperatures go down, even new automotive engines are not as efficient. They all have to work harder, and that means putting more pollutants into the air,” says Dann.
That leads to more Action Days during what the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment calls our “winter high pollution season” (Oct. 31 to March 31). Action Days are when the air quality is bad enough that the public is advised to stop residential wood-burning and unnecessary driving.
So, all the things you’ve heard about making your car run cleaner and better remain as important, if not more so, for the winter as during summer.
“By keeping pretty much to the manufacturer’s guidelines, you can keep your car maintained quite well,” says Bill Bender, owner of Boulder’ 25-year-old Independent Motors automotive repair shop.
“There are some tweaks to keep in mind. I’ve come to the conclusion you don’t always have to change the oil below 5,000 miles from the last change. But that’s typically for newer cars. Older than five years, I recommend checking that dipstick every 2,500 to 3,000 miles. If you’re as much as a quarter-low, you can top it off. But you have to do the check regularly, so you don’t wind up with a burned-out engine and a huge repair bill.”
One of the advantages of having a pro change the oil is that the shop can dispose of the used product in an environmentally conscious manner. If you’re going to change the oil yourself, take the used goo to an accommodating auto shop or hazardous waste collection center.
If you use a tire gauge, be aware that even the more expensive models aren’t guaranteed, so keep an eye on how your car is handling and how your tires look.
Also keep the interior filter in mind. Even without the air conditioning on, pollutant-laden air is drawn in and processed through this device.
“That’s a feature that gets very neglected and not replaced often,” says Bender. “Think about what you’re breathing in, even with your windows rolled up.”
Manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations are found in your owner’s manual. If you can’t find it, don’t panic. Boulder County libraries have computers dedicated to catalog and database use. The database ALLDATA provides factory-correct information for automotive technicians, which is also freely available to you at the library.
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In related news, the Boulder County Household Hazardous Waste facility is now closed. A new facility will replace it in late February at 1901 63rd St. in Boulder. More information is available at http://bit.ly/i1c8QF.