Tips to help keep cars' engines clean, environment, wallets green

James Raia

Tips to help keep cars' engines clean, environment, wallets green 1With nearly four in five car owners planning to drive their current vehicle for at least 50,000 more miles longer than they drove their previous car, has released a list of tips to keep the environment clean and drivers’ wallets green.According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the oil from one oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water (a year’s supply for 50 people). As such, the use of reconditioned parts not only saves valuable environmental resources, it can save car owners 50 percent or more compared to the cost of purchasing new parts.

To help keep car owners “green” their auto repair and maintenance,’s mechanics identified common repair and maintenance activities and applied a simple formula, the “Four R’s”: Recycle, Repair, Re-use and Be Resource-Friendly.

Tips to help keep cars' engines clean, environment, wallets green 2
Here are the tips:


(If all the oil from American do-it-yourself oil changers were recycled, it would be enough to supply more than 50 million cars a year.)

A. OIL After re-filling with new oil, simply pour the used oil into the empty container and return it to your local parts/repair shop store.

B. ANTIFREEZE Most repair shops will also take your recycled antifreeze. Dumping antifreeze is not only illegal, it can cause serious water quality problems.

C. PARTS If you can’t rebuild or repair a failing part (such as a starter or alternator), recycle it at your local repair shop. Typically, you pay a “core” charge when purchasing a new or rebuilt part, but when you recycle the old part (return the core), that charge is refunded.


(Extending the life of your vehicle and its body parts through proper repair and maintenance can help save environmental resources, prevent costly repairs and conserve consumer dollars.)

A. BODY PARTS Metal body parts can be welded or straightened, and new repair techniques have increased the number of plastic body repairs by using flexible repair materials like fiberglass. Re-upholster, rather than replace, your seats. Return a cloudy headlight lens to “new” with cleaning, rather than replacing the entire headlight assembly.

B. YOUR VEHICLE Regular repair/maintenance makes your vehicle run stronger and last longer, e.g. rotating your tires can double their life; keeping your battery and battery terminals clean with a baking soda solution can add a year to its use, while cleaning windshield wipers every two weeks with rubbing alcohol can make them last longer.

(Rebuilt/remanufactured and used parts can cost 50 percent less than buying new parts while also reducing the amount of raw materials consumed and harmful emissions generated.)

A. REBUILT PARTS are readily accessible online and at the parts store and save valuable resources. For instance, remanufacturing of alternators requires only 12 to 14 percent of the energy that it typically takes to manufacture a new alternator and can result in consumer savings

B. TOOLS/SUPPLIES Take good care of your tools and equipment so you don’t have to replace them needlessly and re-use supplies rather than throwing away after each use.


(Chances are that whatever you clean your vehicle with could end up in the storm drain and our streams, rivers, or oceans, so be conscious of the products you are using, or use a commercial car wash which generally uses much less water.)

A. GREEN CLEANING PRODUCTS are widely available, or save money with green home remedies, such as baking soda and water to clean a battery terminal, or a mild solution of vinegar and water and newspapers for windows and mirrors.

B. DON’T OVERWASH Wash your vehicle only when it really needs it. Skip the DIY, and use a commercial car wash. Commercial car washes generally use much less water, some recycle their water, and federal regulations are in place to ensure that their wastewater is treated before re-entering the water supply.


(Look at options for greener or longer-life products that can save waste.)

A. ORGANIC BRAKE PADS are made of materials that don’t pollute as they wear down, and are easier to dispose of. (Note: Organic brake pads should not be used on heavy vehicles or high performance cars and they can have a shorter life than regular pads).

B. EXTENDED LIFE ANTIFREEZE can last anywhere from 150,000 to 600,000 miles (or years longer), possibly saving you money – and saving the environment gallons of toxic antifreeze waste.

C. SYNTHETIC OIL can reduce both the number of oil changes and oil used. Some manufacturers have increased oil change intervals to 15,000 miles or 12 months when using synthetics. (Note: synthetic oil should be recycled like regular oil).

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Article Last Updated: October 11, 2010.

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