How to reduce your car's emissions

5 minute read

Busy motorway junction at sunset

There are more than 30 million vehicles in the UK and with each releasing carbon dioxide into the air every time they're driven, the amount of CO2 produced on our roads quickly adds up.

If you’d like to know how to reduce the carbon emissions produced by your vehicle, read on to find out how you can do your bit for the environment.

How can I reduce my car’s CO2 emissions?

Reduce idle time

There’s nothing fun or exciting about being stuck in a traffic jam, and leaving the engine running when you’re not moving could unnecessarily use up fuel. You can reduce idling time by turning off the engine when you’re at a standstill. Many cars now have start/stop technology, so when you put the vehicle in neutral gear and the handbrake on, it will automatically turn the engine off for you. As soon as you press the clutch down, the engine turns over and you can begin to move.

It’s not just traffic that could cause you to idle, but also dropping the grandchildren off at school and waiting for someone outside a shop or supermarket. It’s best to turn the engine off completely during these instances.


Use air conditioning/heating less

Cranking up the air con and the heating in your car can force it to use more fuel, which can in turn increase its emissions. For this reason, on very hot days, you could roll the windows down and allow cool air to circulate from outside as much as possible. This will reduce the overall temperature in the car. Then, once the car has aired, you can roll up the windows and turn on the air conditioning. Your car won’t need to work as hard as you've already somewhat reduced the heat.


Ensure tyre pressure is correct

The pressure of your car’s tyres can have a big impact on its performance. Underinflated tyres mean the car has to work harder to turn them and uses more fuel in the process. It’s thought that a tyre that’s underinflated by 20% can reduce efficiency by 20% too.

You should inflate your tyres, as needed, every few weeks to ensure your car is running as it should. To find out how much air you need to put in your tyres, you can consult your vehicle’s manual or the pressure details on a sticker inside the driver’s side door, if present.


Change the oil

Oil helps to keep your car’s engine lubricated so that all the moving parts can work with minimal friction and without overheating. When there isn’t sufficient lubrication, your car may need to use more fuel and therefore its carbon dioxide production could increase.

You should regularly check your car’s oil levels and if there isn’t enough or it looks a little low, top it up with fresh engine oil.


Change the air filters

The air filters filter out dust and other particles to allow air to flow through the engine properly. When the filter becomes blocked, the airflow to the engine is reduced, which can result in low performance and the chance of increased emissions. 


Take the vehicle for regular servicing

The more you look after your car, the more it will look after you. Regular servicing could make the vehicle more reliable and run more smoothly, but maintenance can also reduce the emissions your vehicle creates. During a service, the oil is changed, the engine is tuned to increase performance, hydraulic fluid is checked and much more, to keep your car running at its maximum efficiency.


Use premium fuel (petrol vehicles only)

There are three different fuel options at the petrol station – diesel, unleaded petrol and premium unleaded petrol. If you have a petrol car, using premium fuel could affect the emissions of your car for the better. It already contains a cleaning agent, so you don't need to add a solution to it.


Use a cleaning agent

Cars run by burning fuel, which in turn creates sooty deposits. As your car gets older, the soot can build up within the engine, making the vehicle run less efficiently and produce more emissions. Adding a cleaning agent to the engine dislodges such deposits and leaves the inside of the engine clean again. However, if you fill your car with premium unleaded petrol, you don't need to add a solution as it contains a cleaning agent in it.

The solution is usually added to the system via the fuel tank, so you can pour it directly into the car when there’s at least a quarter of a tank of petrol left and it’ll get to work straight away. For maximum effect, the cleaning agent should be added every three to six months. It’s effective in both petrol and diesel engines.

If you’re unsure on how to add a fuel cleaning agent yourself, or which cleaning agent is suitable for your car (diesel and petrol cars require a different agents), you could look at your car’s manual or ask a car technician at your local garage.


Treat the exhaust system (diesel vehicles only)

Some diesel engines rely on an exhaust system treatment known as AdBlue to reduce harmful emissions. This solution needs to be topped up into the right reservoir and can turn potentially harmful nitrogen oxide into a mixture of nitrogen and water. You’ll be able to find out whether your car requires AdBlue by looking in your vehicle’s handbook. Newer cars will generally tell you when it’s running low, so you can top it up just like you would screenwash or oil.


How much does AdBlue reduce emissions for diesel vehicles?

If your diesel car requires AdBlue, then it’s likely that it has a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system built into it. Within this system, AdBlue is injected into the SCR catalyst which turns nitrogen oxide into nitrogen and water before expelling it via the exhaust. It’s thought that this process could reduce a diesel vehicle’s emissions by a huge 95% [1].

Not only can some of the information above reduce your vehicle’s emissions, but you may even increase the longevity of your car, keep it running in tip top condition and make it more efficient.




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