While an alternative fuel vehicle is a great way to make a difference in the environment, there are many ways to make your conventional vehicle more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly that can have a big impact. Follow these easy tips to make your car run greener and not break the bank:

1. Go the speed limit
One the easiest and most important ways to increase your car’s efficiency and to lower emissions is to simply slow down. When you’re on the highway, the wind resistance causes you to press harder on the accelerator. The faster you go though, the more resistance you’ll encounter and the more gas you’ll use.

According to experts from About.com, if you’re driving 80 mph, you’ve cut your fuel economy in half. Not only is this harmful to the environment, it’s also expensive. For every 5 mph over 60, you may be losing as much as 20 cents per gallon of gas. Even in urban areas, abruptly stopping and accelerating is hard on your fuel economy and your breaks. When possible, try using the cruise control to steady your pace and increase your mileage by 15%.

2. Schedule a tune-up
By regularly maintaining your car, you’ll be increasing the life of your car and pumping out fewer emissions. Something as simple as using high-quality oil can prolong your engine’s life and improve fuel economy. When you get your car serviced, make sure they also rotate your tires to keep them wearing evenly. A well maintained vehicle will run more efficiently which also means less gas and less pollution.

3. Properly inflate your tires
Under-inflated tires will increase the friction on the road, and all of that extra friction can mean horrible MPG and increased emissions. A tire’s rolling resistance “can add or detract an additional one or two miles per gallon,” according to an article in Consumer Report. A tire-pressure gauge only costs about ten dollars, or you can check your levels at a local gas station for less than a dollar. Over-inflating is never good either as this can cause a tire blow out. Checking your tires at least once a week will ensure that you get the optimal gas mileage.

4. Remove excess weight from your car
Some may suggest weighing your car down with sandbags in the winter to decrease your chances of sliding on ice. While this may be helpful, that doesn’t mean you should keep them there throughout the year. Piling up extra unnecessary items in your car results in worse fuel economy. The heavier your car is, the more gas it requires for power. By simply cleaning out your trunk, you can help the environment at no cost at all.

5. Avoid idle time
We often think nothing of letting our cars run idle for 10 minutes at a time, but simply warming your car up or waiting in a drive-thru can consume more fuel than when you’re actually driving. Even though it’s nice to get into a warm car on a cold day, your car is capable of running without warming up first. If you feel it is necessary though, then let it sit for two or three minutes rather than 10 or 15. Likewise, rather than letting your car run while you wait for your food in a drive-thru, why not walk in and pick it up? You may even get your food faster than if you sat waiting. Contrary to belief, restarting your car does not use more gas.

6. Plan your trips
Instead of wasting time and money by making unnecessary trips to the store for a gallon of milk, plan your errands at the beginning of the week and complete them all at once. If you can’t do them all, choose several that are in one part of town and complete all of those. By planning ahead, you can also decide on a better route that can help you to avoid traffic and using up fuel. Pay attention to real-time traffic reports or use a GPS if you have one to choose the most efficient route.

7. Start carpooling
Talk to your friends, neighbors and co-workers to find out if carpooling is an option. If so, you can take turns driving each other to work during the week. This reduces the cost of gas and fuel emissions by 50% if you carpool with just one other person and by more than 66% if you share rides with two others. If you live in an area where a parking spot is hard to find, this makes the deal even sweeter. If you can’t find anyone who is willing to carpool, consider asking your employer if telecommuting is possible once a week. You may be surprised by their answer and by how much you will save over time.

8. Use sun block Just as wearing sunscreen is important for your skin, it’s also important for your car. Sun reflectors for your car will keep the temperature down while the car is parked, making it easier on the air conditioning when you start moving. When you blast your car’s AC and make it work harder, you’re using up more fuel. Past studies have also indicated that the high summer temperatures can cause more air pollutants to be released from the upholstery and plastic in your car. Sun reflectors can be purchased for only 10 to 15 dollars.

9. Replace your Spark Plugs
For less than nine dollars, you can replace your old spark plugs with eco-friendly ones. Planetgreen.com suggests the Halo spark plugs which claim to reduce gas mileage by 10% and toxic fumes by 20%. There are hazards to be aware of when performing this task though, so it is important to consult your owner’s manual before you begin this project.

10. Use Alternative Methods of Transportation
Perhaps the greenest option is no car at all. Public transportation in larger cities is becoming an increasingly attractive option for many who want to save on fuel costs. Another spin on public transportation has arrived in the form of the Zipcar which allows you to use only as needed with the swipe of a card. Finally, those who are more athletically inclined or who have a shorter distance to travel may turn toward bike-riding instead. Your city may offer other alternative options as well. Contact your state’s Department of Transportation for information on what’s available in your area.

Whether you make all or one of these adjustments, just a little bit of effort can go a long way when it comes to reducing carbon emissions and increasing your MPG. By making the conscious decision to follow these simple steps, you are ensuring that you are saving money and keeping your car healthier and the environment cleaner for everyone. For hardly any money at all, that is a deal you can’t beat!

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