For most of us, winter is just around the corner, or as is the case in my Colorado town, you may have already experienced some of the ice and snow that make this season exciting and difficult all at the same time. Many people try to use alternative transportation in the Spring and Summer when the weather is pleasant, but as soon as the cold settles in, they run right back to their cars for warmth and protection from the elements.
Many will participate in the winter tradition of "warming up the car." And although this excessive idling is oft-considered a necessary and sometimes chivalrous act, it contributes to a dramatic increase in air pollution during the cold weather season. In fact, in winter conditions, studies have shown that emissions from an idling vehicle are more than double the normal level immediately after a cold start.
Many people have been misinformed that "it takes more gas to turn the car on than to keep it running, or "turning the car on and off damages the engine." So we sit and wait for the frost to dissolve on the windshield and the seat warmers to be cranking at full capacity before we climb in.
However, with a little creativity and some advance planning, there are ways that you can get your car ready for driving in winter conditions without wasting gas and sending clouds of toxic emissions up into the atmosphere.
1. Embrace the Scraper
If hate the morning cold, there's nothing better for getting the blood flowing that going to town on windshield frost and ice with a simple ice scraper. If you would normally turn the defrosters on full blast and retreat to the house until your the ice melted on its own, you should know that every 10 minutes of idling costs you at least 2/10 of a gallon of gas, and every gallon of gas you use produces about 19 pounds of carbon dioxide.
2. Cover It Up
Depending on where you live, you might have to deal with anything from a light frost, a coating of ice, or six inches of heavy snow on your car in the morning. Those lucky enough to have a garage, don't have to deal with as many of these obstacles, but cold weather is still a factor. If you are unwilling to scrape, covering your vehicle with an eco-friendly canvas tarp is a great way to keep ice from forming on the windshield, and with a little help, can even expedite the process of clearing away snow that may have fallen over night.
3. Make Your Own De-icer
If you're running late and the scraper isn't an option, it helps to have a de-icer to help the process along. However, most conventional deicing agents are extremely toxic and contain ingredients that are harmful to the air and the water supply. Make your own non-toxic windshield de-icer instead, and keep a spray bottle right by the door for easy access.
The Greenists and their friends at Niagra County Recycling offer this easy recipe for a solution that can be applied to the windows the night before to help prevent ice from forming:
“When you have to leave your car outside overnight in the winter, mix 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water and coat the windows with this solution. This vinegar and water combination will help keep windshields ice and frost free.”
If you didn't know that the bad weather was coming, the Dollar Stretcher offers these simple formulas for de-icer that can be used right away:
Recipe #1: Mix one part water to two parts rubbing alcohol. Apply to the window and watch it peel right off!
Recipe #2: Use a bottle of 70% isopropyl alcohol (50% works, too, but not as well) with a few drops of dish soap. Apply liberally to the glass with a spray bottle. (Readers also recommend adding alcohol to the washer fluid container, with a 50/50 mix, to keep wiper lines from freezing up in the winter.)
Do You Have Other Tricks or Tips for Eliminating the Idling from your Winter Morning Routine? Share them in a comment!