Cleaner cars, cleaner air

Earth Day event offers free help for state's motorists

April 21, 2007|By Andrew Schaefer | Andrew Schaefer,sun reporter

Marylanders drive about 155 million miles every day.

Tomorrow, state and county officials will mark Earth Day with an event aimed at helping residents drive their daily miles more efficiently. Technicians will offer free efficiency and safety inspections from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the parking lot of Unitas Stadium at Towson University.

"Driving is the most polluting thing most of us do, so any little thing we can each do to keep our cars in good shape will have a huge cumulative effect," said Peggy Courtright, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

About a dozen technicians from Precision Tune Auto Care will perform inspections, checking tire pressure and tread wear, belt and hose conditions, fluid levels, and battery condition. Inspections should take 10 to 15 minutes, and each motorist will receive a copy of the inspection report and have the opportunity to discuss problems with a technician. Drivers also will receive a free car care guide. The event's organizers hope to inspect about 200 cars during the five-hour event.

One of the easiest ways to keep a car running efficiently is to check tire pressure once a month or every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, Courtright said. Tire pressure varies with temperature, she said, and tires can naturally lose up to a pound of pressure per month. Keeping tires properly inflated can increase a vehicle's fuel efficiency by as much as 3 percent, which can translate to a savings of about 10 cents per gallon of gas, Courtright said.

Cars contribute about one third of the Baltimore area's pollution-causing emissions, said Russ Ulrich, air quality outreach coordinator for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, an organization of county executives from around the Baltimore region and an organizer of the event.

While the Baltimore area has made great strides in improving air quality in the past decade, Courtright said there is still a persistent problem with ground-level ozone, a throat and lung irritant produced by burning fuels. She said the region often violates federal standards for ground-level ozone on hot summer days, when pollutants heat up in the sun, increasing overall concentration.

Tomorrow's event - called Clean Cars for Clean Air clinic - launches Clean Commute Month, a joint effort of the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board, Clean Air Partners, Precision Tune Auto Care and Towson University. Ulrich said the partners want to promote ways of getting around besides driving single-occupant vehicles.

"We realize not everyone can take advantage of those things, but we want folks who do have to drive to be part of this campaign," he said.

Car owners can take several steps to ensure their cars run efficiently and safely, said Gary Marsiglia, area developer for Precision Tune Auto Care. He recommended checking tire pressure, checking interior and exterior lights, visually scanning the engine for any signs of leakage, and checking wiper blades for wear.

Inspections

When: Tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: The parking lot at Unitas Stadium, off Auburn Drive on the Towson University campus

What's happening: Drivers can get a free car inspection conducted by technicians from Precision Tune Auto Centers. Each driver will receive an inspection results sheet and free car care guide.

Who's sponsoring: The Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the Maryland Department of the Environment, Precision Tune Auto Care centers and Towson University.

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