If you have to drive, maintain your car.
One of the best things you can do, if you need to/ choose to drive your car and still want to reduce your environmental impact, is to properly maintain your vehicle. Proper maintenance will help your vehicle operate at its optimum efficiency and will cut extend the life of your vehicle.
Earlier this week, I noticed that one of my tires looked a little flat. This led to my seventh activity of the challenge – regularly inspect my tire pressure. Transport Canada recommends inspecting your tires monthly for signs of wear or trauma and to ensure they are properly inflated. Most people don’t check their tires that often…I don’t check my tires that often, but I’m going to start because I’m throwing money away if I don’t.
Firstly, most tire manufacturers will tell you that by ensuring that your tires are properly inflated, you will extend the life of your tires. Aside from the waste generated by sending old tires to landfill and manufacturing new tires, tires can be expensive and if I can put of spending money on new tires, I’m going to.
Secondly, driving around with under-inflated (or over-inflated) tires increases fuel consumption. According to Transport Canada, improper tire maintenance in Canada produces 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year. Having one tire under-inflated by 8 psi, increases your vehicle’s fuel consumption by 4%. That extra gas adds up over time ($$$).
Thirdly, proper tire maintenance will improve your vehicle’s handling and lead to a safer ride.
So…how do you check your tire pressure. You’ll need a pressure gauge.
Make sure you check the pressure when your tires are cold (i.e., before you drive or after the car’s been stopped for about three hours). What pressure should the tires be? That depends on your vehicle. The optimum tire pressure should be located somewhere on your vehicle, mine’s on the edge of the driver’s door. If it’s not there, check the glove box, visor or fuel door. Don’t use the tire pressure on the tire itself – this is the maximum tire pressure for the tire, not the optimum pressure for your vehicle.
If you’re like me, tire pressure gauges are not the most intuitive piece of equipment to use.
So here’s how:
- Remove the cap on the valve stem.
- Place the open end of the gauge over the valve stem.
- When you press down on the valve stem, the air pressure inside the tire will cause the scale at the other end to pop out to indicate your tire pressure.
Make sure to use the cold tire temperature to figure out if you need to add/remove any air. Despite what you may have heard, over inflating your tires will NOT improve fuel efficiency. In may case, one tire was 30 psi – so off to the gas station I went!
Before adding air to the tire, I noted that the tire pressure after driving was 32 psi – so I needed to inflate the tire to 34 psi when the tires were hot. To add air, just remove the valve stem cap and add air (different air pumps may operate differently, but you can almost always find instructions on the pump). Check the air pressure again after adding air. To make this easier, many air pumps have a gauge built in. If you’ve accidentally over-inflated, release some air until you hit the optimal pressure using the gauge, the pump, or another sharp object. Don’t forget to replace the valve stem cap.
One dollar and a few minutes later, I was driving at optimal tire pressure!
You can find several helpful websites for advice on checking tire pressure if you do a quick Google search, but here’s Transport Canada’s advice.