Auto Dealers Provide 10-Point Green Checkup List

To help motorists save money at the gas pump and, at the same time, cut greenhouse gas emissions through proper vehicle maintenance, the National Automobile Dealers Association has created a check list of Green Maintenance Tips and a new program called the Green Checkup.

Annette Sykora, chair of the association, emphasized that the goal of the Green Checkup campaign is to highlight simple steps that car owners can take to maintain their vehicles in top running condition.

"Dealerships are located in every major community in the country which means we are ideally positioned to be at the forefront of a national consumer awareness campaign," said Sykora, owner of two dealerships in Texas.

The association is urging its dealer members to offer free Green Checkups at their dealerships. The "Green Checkup" focuses on the things that have the most effect on fuel economy, such as oil and air filters, engine performance, tire pressure, and emission controls.

As part of the EcoDriving initiative, Dan McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, outlined a national campaign to highlight smart driving habits that can save drivers gas and money, and announced a new Web site that provides valuable information to motorists (www.ecodrivingusa.com).

For more information about Green Maintenance Tips, visit www.greendrivingUSA.com.

NADA, founded in 1917 and based in McLean, Va., represents about 20,000 new car and truck dealers with 43,000 franchises, both domestic and import.

Consumers can save money and energy -- and wear and tear on their vehicles -- with proper care and maintenance. Here are 10 items that affect fuel economy.

NADA's 10-Point Green Checkup

1. Motor oil. Top off and change oil as necessary with manufacturer-recommended grade, "energy conserving" motor oils. Doing so can improve fuel economy by up to 2 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Replacing conventional oils with synthetics may offer even greater fuel economy benefits.

2. Air filters. Make sure you change your air filter at the end of its recommended lifespan. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve a vehicle's gas mileage by up to 10 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

3. Engine performance. Enhance fuel economy performance by having engines tuned and spark plugs replaced according to the manufacturer's recommended schedule. A single misfiring spark plug can cut fuel economy by up to 4 percent, according to EPA.

4. Brakes. Improperly maintained brakes can result in unwanted drag. This unnecessary resistance can have the same effect as driving with a foot on the brake pedal: a dramatic drop in fuel economy.

5. Warning lights for "Service Engine Soon" or "Check Engine." Ignoring these indicators may result in poor fuel economy performance and require expensive repairs. For example, a warning light may indicate a faulty oxygen sensor is sending more fuel to the engine than necessary, which can result in a 40 percent fuel economy decline. A warning light could also indicate a faulty thermostat, which can prevent a cold engine from reaching its normal operating temperature resulting in the unnecessary injection of fuel.

6. Tire wear. Replacing worn tires with a manufacturer-recommended size and style can save hundreds of dollars a year. To improve fuel economy performance, consider low rolling-resistance replacement tires.

7. Tire inflation pressure. Keeping tires inflated to at least the manufacturer-recommended pressure can improve fuel economy by up to 3 percent, according to EPA. Under-inflated tires require more energy to roll, meaning more fill-ups.

8. Unnecessary items that add weight to the vehicle. Unnecessary weight lowers fuel economy; remove heavy items from your trunk and back seat.

9. Evaporative emission controls. Poorly operating evaporative emission controls can fail to capture gasoline vapors and recycle them to the fuel tank. Faulty controls waste gas and degrade air quality.

10. Transmission. Properly operating modern transmissions and drive components are critical to vehicle fuel economy performance. Routinely check proper fluid levels and system operation.

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