Driving Smart

Be smart about how you drive – save money and help the environment!

When purchasing, look for a fuel efficient and low emission vehicle:

  • Heavy options can lower fuel efficiency:  automatic transmissions, large powerful engines, power steering, air conditioning, 4-wheel drive
  • US Department of Energy publishes a Fuel Economy Guide; maintains alternative fueling station locator
  • Environmental Protection Agency publishes a Green Vehicle Guide
  • Edmunds.com has a fuel-efficient vehicle savings calculator

On the maintenance side:

  • Keep up on the ignition timing, spark plugs and wiring, and idle speed setting.
  • Purchase long-lasting, fuel-efficient radial tires (vs. bias or belted tires) and keep them properly aligned and inflated at the maximum recommended pressure.
  • Check pressure monthly and get the alignment checked every 5,000 miles.
  • Keep the air and fuel filters clean.
  • Use antifreeze without ethylene glycol.
  • Have your air conditioner serviced by a mechanic with a freon recovery machine, which can drain the coolant, purify it, and reinject it into the air conditioner.
  • Check your vehicle’s user manual to determine how often to change your oil, and use multi-grade, energy conserving (EC) motor oil to improve fuel efficiency 1-2% or buy re-refined oil to support oil recycling.  Purchase the lowest viscosity oil (i.e., “10 W 40”) recommended by your car’s owner’s manual.
  • Recycle your used motor oil and oil filters at an approved collection center and sop up any spills with super-absorbent towels or kitty litter.
  • Refuel during the evening to help reduce ozone levels, and don’t buy a higher octane gasoline than your engine needs.  Producing higher-octane fuels uses more petroleum.
  • Keep an eye on your gas mileage to catch any problems.

Drive efficiently:

  • If you have multiple vehicles, drive the one with the best mileage the most.
  • Check out Google’s traffic function in Google Maps (the option is in a box at the upper-right of the map)
  • Combine errands and plan out the shortest route possible. The heaviest car emissions occur during the first two miles that a car is driven (while the engine is still cold). Consider taking a walk or bike ride for trips two miles or less.
  • Don’t turn on the car until you are ready to drive off – and avoid idling.  Ten seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it.
  • In winter, only “warm up” the car for 30 seconds – idling doesn’t really warm the engine, but driving does¹.
  • Don’t unnecessarily drive with heavy items, roof-racks or trailers.
  • Minimize use of the air conditioner, but only if you can keep the windows up, especially at high speeds.
  • Perhaps most importantly, maintain steady speeds, accelerate and decelerate gradually, and drive slowly!  Numerous studies have shown that doing so can increase your mileage by 30%.
¹ California Energy Commission