Tak­ing the en­vi­ron­ment into con­sid­er­a­tion

The Mercury News Weekend - - DRIVE - By Brad Bergholdt

I be­lieve glob­al­warm­ing will de­stroy our planet. If you agree, Iwould like to see your re­sponses to read­ers bet­ter re­flect con­cerns for the en­vi­ron­ment. In a re­cent re­ply, you sug­gested a reader choose a larger engine for its sup­posed longevity over a smaller, more fuel-ef­fi­cient op­tion. In sup­port of this ad­vice, you talked only about the ex­penses in­volved. Given that your ad­vice in­flu­ences the thoughts of­many peo­ple, I ask you to con­sider men­tion­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of such de­ci­sions. — Leo

Good stuff, Leo! I’ll try to bet­ter con­sider the en­vi­ron­ment inmy an­swers.

In the case of the larger engine for the truck, I think it’s jus­ti­fied, as one should go with the most suit­able engine for the task at hand— in this case, heavy haul­ing. If I were this driver, how­ever, I’d try to drive a Prius or Leaf dur­ingmy daily com­mute and other light-duty trips and save the car­bon diox­ide-belch­ing truck for its in­tended pur­pose.

Let’s look at some things the typ­i­cal ve­hi­cle owner can do to re­duce their en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print:

Con­sol­i­date Trips orCar­pool

En­gines emit far more pol­lu­tants and burn more fuel when they are cold-started. Com­bin­ing er­rands leads to more warm starts. Un­der such con­di­tions, the engine’s com­bus­tion process, rather than waste­fully let­ting hy­dro­car­bons pass through un­burned, cre­ates torque by burn­ing air and hy­dro­car­bons.

Main­tain Cor­rect TirePres­sure, Drive Strate­gi­cally

Un­der­in­flated tires roll less eas­ily across pave­ment, wast­ing fuel. And by an­tic­i­pat­ing the traf­fic ahead, you can avoid un­nec­es­sary brak­ing and ac­cel­er­at­ing, which are also fuel-wasters.

Per­form Pre­scribed Ve­hi­cle Main­te­nance, Par­tic­u­larly Engine-Re­lated Items

Worn spark­plugs, dirty fuel in­jec­tors, and car­bon-coated pis­tons and valves can lead to mis­fir­ing, wast­ing fuel, and sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased ex­haust emis­sions. Adirty air fil­ter or clogged crank­case ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem can also waste fuel and in­crease emis­sions.

Change oil as spec­i­fied to keep the vari­able valve tim­ing sys­tem fully func­tional. Look for and fix fluid leaks so coolant and var­i­ous lu­bri­cants don’t find their way to storm drains and our bays and oceans. Fix a leak­ing air con­di­tion­ing sys­tem right the first time so it doesn’t con­tinue leak­ing re­frig­er­ant and re­quire re­peated recharg­ing.

At any sign of engine chug­ging or shak­ing, seek re­pairs right away to pre­vent mas­sive hy­dro­car­bon emis­sions and dam­age to the cat­alytic con­verter. An il­lu­mi­nated check engine or ser­vice engine soon light in­di­cates an engine or trans­mis­sion man­age­ment fault is per­ceived to be in­creas­ing emis­sions more than 50 per­cent above fed­eral test stan­dards. Aflash­ing check engine light in­di­cates a cat­a­lyst-threat­en­ing (se­vere) mis­fire is oc­cur­ring. Con­sider a tow or try a more gen­tle path home that might drop the lamp back to be­ing con­tin­u­ously on (less se­vere or no mis­fire).

Pur­chas­ing a newer ve­hi­cle, per­haps a hy­brid, vir­tu­ally guar­an­tees less smog and green­house gasses emit­ted, in ad­di­tion to less fuel con­sumed. In ad­di­tion to fuel econ­omy rat­ings, look at and com­pare a prospec­tive new ve­hi­cle’s emis­sions in­for­ma­tion on the win­dow sticker. There’ll be rat­ings for car­bon diox­ide/green­house gas emis­sions and smog. A larger engine typ­i­cally emits more grams of emis­sions per mile than a small one, in ad­di­tion to us­ing more fuel.

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