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Eco-friendly Car Maintenance

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Take these car pollution solutions for a spin.

In just one year, Americans collectively spent 70 billion hours behind the wheel — an 8 percent increase from 2014, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Each week, U.S. drivers ventured more than 220 miles.1 The more miles put on your car, the more maintenance it may require. This includes changing oil and automotive fluids, as well as keeping cars clean from the inside out.

The methods used to maintain and clean vehicles can greatly impact the environment, including the lagoon. Motor oils and other automotive fluids that leak or spill onto driveways can wash into nearby storm drains and poison aquatic life. You might not realize it, but — if you wash your car at home — even the detergent you use can impact the environment.

Car wash cleaners typically contain surfactants (compounds that lower the surface tension between two liquids), which destroy the external mucus layers that protect fish from bacteria and parasites. This can cause severe damage to their gills.

Fortunately, there are four easy ways to reduce vehicle pollution.
These car pollution solutions can help to save the lagoon — and the aquatic life who call it home.

professional carwash

WASH YOUR VEHICLE AT A COMMERCIAL CAR WASH.

On an average weekday, you might be chauffeuring kids to and from school, rushing to work, and then scrambling to get all the daily chores done at home. That doesn’t leave much time to wash your car, which is why it’s a chore that typically carries over into the weekend.

Wouldn’t you rather spend your weekends doing the things you actually like to do, instead of the things you have to do?

Consider taking your car to a commercial car wash instead. It not only saves you time and energy, but it’s also better for the environment. Commercial car washes drain used water into the sanitary system instead of storm drains. This water is treated to remove pollution. Plus, conveyor car washes typically use substantially less water, depending on the equipment used. Advanced, computerized pumps and nozzles control water output, reducing water usage by up to 60 percent, compared to a home wash. Special pressure nozzles mix 50 percent air in with the water to create pressure without volume. Some even recycle and reuse water on site.

Commercial car washes drain used water into the sanitary system instead of into storm drains that flow to the lagoon.

Get your weekends back by taking your car into a commercial car wash once a month. Find a car wash by the grocery store you already frequent and you can even check two items off your list, while saving on gas. How’s that for efficiency?

washing car over lawn

IF YOU WASH YOUR CAR AT HOME, MAKE ECO-FRIENDLY CHOICES.

Maybe you prefer to wash your car at home to save money. No problem! There are still ways to reduce vehicle pollution, with a little advanced planning.

First, choose soaps, cleaners or detergents labeled phosphate-free and biodegradable. Soaps that contain phosphates can cause excess algae growth in waterways. As these plants decay, large amounts of oxygen are consumed, leaving very little oxygen for the fish. Choose a vegetable- or citrus-based soap instead.

Second, wash your car over your lawn, not your driveway. Your yard can act like a filter, reducing the harmful suds that would otherwise end up in the lagoon. Soap is only one part of the equation though. Even if you only use water, there’s a mix of pollutants — including oils, grease, and particulate matter from vehicle exhaust emissions, brake linings and rust — being washed down the drain.

Adding soap into the mix may introduce phenols, dyes, acid, ammonia, and surfactants that clog fish gills so much that they suffocate. All of this grime from washing your vehicle produces algae-feeding nutrients. So while these nutrients will not harm your grass, they will have a negative effect on the lagoon.

Simply choose a phosphate-free, biodegradable soap and wash your vehicle over your lawn and you’ll be doing your part to keep your car — and the lagoon — clean.

changing vehicle oil fluids

PROPERLY DISPOSE OF AUTOMOTIVE FLUIDS.

Never bury, dump or burn automotive fluids, according to the Department of Energy & Environment. Why not? Antifreeze has a sweet smell and taste that may entice children or pets to consume it, but it’s highly toxic.2

Additionally, improperly disposed automotive fluids can drain into storm drains and flow into waterways, killing fish and other animals. It can even seep through the soil and into ground water.

Each year, nearly 400 million used oil filters are disposed of in America. Let’s assume that the average filter contains 3 to 4 ounces of oil. That adds up to more than 12 million gallons of oil, emphasizing the importance of proper disposal.

Recycle used oil and other automotive fluids at participating service stations. Brevard County operates three Household Hazardous Waste Collection Centers. Corrosive, reactive, flammable and toxic waste brought to these collection centers are either recycled, reused, or sent to permitted hazardous waste management facilities for safe disposal.

Why You Should Properly Dispose of Automotive Fluids

car oil filters400 MILLION

The number of used oil filters that Americans dispose of each year.

car oil drops3 to 4
ounces of oil

Assumed amount of oil in a disposed filter.

car oil gallons12 million+
gallons of oil

Total amount of disposed oil.

To put things in perspective, one gallon of used motor oil can contaminate 1 million gallons of water — or a year’s supply of drinking water for 50 people.2

vehicle check engine alert gauge

REGULARLY SERVICE & MAINTAIN YOUR CAR

Regular tune-ups can increase your fuel efficiency and improve the lifespan of your vehicle, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.3 It’s better for your wallet and the environment. Make sure to change your oil, maintain the right level of automotive fluids and keep your air filter clean.

If you do notice a leak, make sure to fix it asap and clean up any spillage on your driveway or street. If it’s an oil spill, for example, use a mop that only absorbs oil, advises the Department of Energy & Environment. Transfer the used oil to a drum for recycling. For outdoor areas or your garage, always use dry clean-up methods, as opposed to hosing down the spill, which will only spread it. To put things in perspective, one gallon of used motor oil can contaminate 1 million gallons of water — or a year’s supply of drinking water for 50 people. Similarly, for an antifreeze spill, use a dedicated mop to clean up the spill. Transfer to a waste coolant drum for recycling and then use a rag to dry the surface.2

add to calendarAfter cleaning up the spill, make sure to take your car in to get serviced. While you wait, you can even schedule recurring reminders in your calendar for future tune-ups, according to the maintenance schedule outlined in your vehicle manual. This will help to prevent costly vehicle repairs — and leaks and fluids from washing into the lagoon.

Why This Matters to All of Us

By using these car pollution solutions, you can help keep harmful pollutants out of waterways — and away from aquatic life. You may also be saving money from costly repairs, simply by maintaining your car to avoid leaks.

Do your part to keep the lagoon — and the greater community — beautiful for you and future generations to enjoy.

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Let’s Be Clear…Car Maintenance FAQs

Absolutely! If the only possible place to wash your vehicle is on your driveway, follow these tips to help prevent excess dirt, grease and soap from entering the lagoon through the nearest storm drain.

• Before you get started, sweep driveways to prevent leaves and trash from being carried to the storm drain.
• Roll up a few towels to divert run-off to a lawn or gravel.
• Use soap sparingly and choose cleaners labeled phosphate-free and biodegradable (even better, try dry wash products).
• Minimize run-off by reducing water use, using a spray nozzle to restrict water flow.
• Wring out sponges and rags over the bucket or in a sink, not the ground.
• When you are done, discard dirty wash water onto your grass or flower bed.

The Department of Energy & Environment have some really helpful tips on how to properly dispose of automotive fluids. Never bury, dump or burn automotive fluids. Instead, use proper containers, such as coolant drums for recycling antifreeze and a separate drum reserved for recycling oil.

Each year, Americans dispose of nearly 400 million used oil filters. Let’s assume that the average filter contains 3 to 4 ounces of oil. That adds up to more than 12 million gallons of oil, emphasizing the importance of proper disposal.

Recycle used oil and other automotive fluids at participating service stations, or bring them to Brevard County's hazardous household collection centers located in Cocoa, Titusville and Melbourne.

SOURCES:

1 “Think You’re In Your Car More? You’re Right. Americans Spend 70 Billion Hours Behind the Wheel.” newsroom.aaa.com, AAA, newsroom.aaa.com/2019/02/think-youre-in-your-car-more-youre-right-americans-spend-70-billion-hours-behind-the-wheel/.
2 “Environmental Issues - Auto Repair and Maintenance.” doee.dc.gov, Department of Energy & Environment, https://doee.dc.gov/service/environmental-issues-auto-repair-and-maintenance.
3 Younes, Lina. “Car Maintenance is a Must!” blog.epa.gov, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 26, Aug. 2010, https://blog.epa.gov/2010/08/26/car-maintenance-is-a-must/.

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