Car care goes easy on environment


Instead of following an oil change schedule based on time or distance, new GM vehicles now come with an oil life monitoring system that tells the driver when an engine oil change is needed. GM is also now recommending owners use semi-synthetic oil, which performs better and has a longer working life inside the engine.

Just like the switch to unleaded gasoline eventually paid off for consumers resulting in much longer intervals between engine tune-ups and longlife exhaust systems, environmentally friendly maintenance practices can also lower the long-term cost of keeping a car on the road, and help the planet!

GM’s computer controlled Oil Life System (OLS) uses a sophisticated algorithm to monitor engine speed and temperature, and it continuously examines engine conditions to determine when it’s time to change the motor oil. It can double or even triple the time or distance between oil changes. Consumers save time and money, it reduces waste oil (good for the environment -less to be recycled) and conserves virgin oil supplies (good for the economy).

Another related eco-friendly maintenance change is a move away from metal canister type oil filters to a cartridge-style oil filter, which is easier to recycle. The paper cartridge fits inside a metal housing that is reused and never needs replacing. Positioning the filter higher on the engine also makes it more accessible to a technician (which saves time) and easier to avoid oil spillage (and potential ecodamage) during replacement.

There are maintenance issues that impact fuel economy. Following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule is the best way to keep a car in top mechanical condition. And not just while it’s still under warranty -it should be adhered to for the life of the vehicle.

When choosing a good service facility look for an affiliation with a reputable organization, such as the ISO (International Standards Organization) or the CAA (Canadian Automobile Association). All CAA-approved auto repair facilities are inspected annually to ensure that they adhere to environmental standards and good recycling practices.

Getting back to fuel economy, one way to improve it is by fitting low rolling resistance “green” tires, which are relatively new on the market. In addition to better fuel economy (lower greenhouse gas emissions), green tires typically promise lower road noise and a longer tread life. Improvements in manufacturing methods and raw materials used also reduce the environmental impact of these tires.

Approximately five to 15 per cent of fuel consumed by a vehicle is used to overcome rolling resistance. Studies performed by tire manufacturers and third-party evaluations conclude that lower rolling resistance tires can help reduce a vehicle’s fuel consumption by 1.0 to 4.5 per cent, which is a significant decrease. Ask about “ecoimpact” information and labelling on the tire side wall.

Tire pressure will also influence fuel economy. Tire pressures should be checked regularly when the tires are cold, generally first thing in the morning. The correct tire pressure setting (for best performance) is on the placard that’s on the driver’s door jamb or in the glove box.

Finally, eco-friendly car care also extends to the products used to make it look good inside and out. Some products are less harmful or may reduce the amount of water that you need to complete the task, so take a closer look at the information labels.

Bob McHugh’s Auto View column appears on Friday in The Province. Email him at




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