Combine trips, carpool or take public transportation whenever possible.








One spark plug in a V-8 engine misfiring only half the time at 55 mph will reduce gas mileage by a full 7 percent.

Know your fluids

black or dark brown

motor oil or grease

yellow or green

coolant or antifreeze

pink or red

transmission fluid


brake fluid, power steering fluid or gasoline

On the road

When it comes to protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, most people don't think about their cars and trucks. But the fact is that what goes up, must come down. That means air pollution from Maryland's nearly 4 million registered vehicles and those in neighboring states often ends up in our rivers, streams and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. It is estimated that nearly one-third of the nitrogen in the Bay comes from the air.

Fortunately, minimizing the negative impact that automobiles have on Maryland's water quality is easy, inexpensive and good for your vehicle. The next time you turn on your air conditioner, sit in line at a drive-through window or are tempted to postpone changing your oil, think about the impact your decisions will have on your automobile as well as on the quality of the water you drink, fish in, boat on, swim in or live near.


Auto maintenance matters

Proper automobile maintenance is good for your checkbook and the environment. It extends the life of your car, improves its performance, prevents some costly repairs, and eliminates or minimizes leaks and emissions that are harmful to the environment. To maintain your vehicle in tip-top condition:

  • Read the owner's manual. Maintaining your vehicle begins with reading and following the advice in your owner's manual, which contains tips on subjects such as oil-change intervals and driving techniques that will help reduce pollution.
  • Get regular tuneups. Dirty carburetors or fuel injectors, clogged air filters, worn points or plugs and an ignored ignition system not only waste gas, but they also lower engine performance and increase emissions. Any complete tuneup should include a thorough examination and repair of the engine's sensors and computer, and the exhaust emissions and evaporative control emissions systems.
  • Keep your air conditioning system leak-free. Leaks allow the refrigerant Freon found in most vehicles to enter the atmosphere, where it can damage the earth's protective ozone layer. Have your air conditioning system checked annually for leaks, and run the air conditioning every once in a while during the cold months to keep the system's seals soft and pliable.
  • Look for liquid leaks. Fluids such as gasoline, oil and antifreeze that leak from automobiles can harm human and animal health and the environment, especially water supplies. So check regularly for leaks and get them fixed before a loved pet samples poisonous antifreeze or rain showers wash oil into storm drains and the Bay.
  • Change oil properly. If you change your own oil, be sure that you drain the used oil into a suitable container. An ordinary plastic milk jug or other gallon container with a tight-fitting cap will do, and a funnel will make it easier to pour the oil into the container. Take the used oil to a collection facility -- located at many neighborhood service and inspection stations -- for reprocessing.
  • Take care of your tires. Check tire pressure every two weeks when tires are cool. The manufacturer's recommended maximum pressure is printed on the side of each tire in pounds per square inch (psi). Maintain tire alignment and rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. These simple steps save you money by improving your vehicle's gas mileage and extending the life of your tires, while also reducing air pollution and preventing tires from being added to Maryland's waste stream.
  • Have your vehicle's emissions inspected. Federal law requires regular emissions inspection of all registered vehicles. The new treadmill test is the most advanced method of testing available. Unlike the tailpipe test, it measures nitrogen oxides -- an air pollutant that can end up in the Bay. For more information on Maryland's Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) call 1-800-638-VEIP.
When you get behind the wheel…
By following these simple tips you can SAVE $12 per month in fuel costs while reducing air pollution and protecting Maryland's valuable natural resources!

  • Turn your engine off if you are waiting for more than 30 seconds at a drive-through window or to pick someone up. You actually waste more fuel by idling than restarting.
  • Stay alert to traffic jams. Take alternate routes to eliminate idling.
  • Warm up your vehicle in cold weather for no longer than one minute.
  • Accelerate gently and evenly, and use your cruise control. Steady speeds save fuel.
  • Use your vehicle's flow-through air vents instead of the air conditioner whenever possible. The air conditioner can actually decrease fuel efficiency by 21 percent, and open windows cause wind resistance, which also lowers mileage.
  • Check your cooling system thermostat. If it is stuck open, it can cause the engine to run cold and reduces engine efficiency by about 7 percent -- costing another $3.20 per month.
  • Keep your engine tuned. A poorly tuned car wastes 15 percent or more of fuel.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated and aligned. Tires that are underinflated by about 8 pounds cause an increased rolling resistance of 5 percent -- costing about $2.30 in gasoline each month. Wheels that are 1/4-inch out of alignment cause another 2 percent wasted fuel and increased tire wear.

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