How to reduce your driving emissions in 11 steps

11 September 2020 Blog

A greener approach to your driving is not just good for the environment, it also means better performance, increased fuel economy and less pressure on your wallet, too.

With air pollution an increasing problem, particularly for those who live in cities, governmental efforts at local, national and global levels serve to alleviate problems, but there are things individual drivers can do to reduce their own emissions too.

From reducing your air conditioning usage to changing certain driving habits, here are 11 ways you can help to reduce your driving emissions and start making a difference to the environment.

  1. Use a cleaning agent

As a car gets older, deposits that build up in the vehicle’s engine can play havoc with its performance, reducing efficiency and increasing emissions. To stop this from happening, add a cleaning agent into the fuel system to remove the deposits and lower emissions. These are readily available from all good car care retailers, and you can easily add it to the fuel system yourself.

To maintain optimum efficiency, the exhaust and fuel cleaner should be used every three months.

  1. Consider using premium fuel

Alongside regular, diesel and unleaded, you’ve probably seen more expensive fuels labelled premium, super and ultimate. These fuels contain active cleaning agents that seek to remove dirt from the engine, improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, so it may be worth paying a little extra and making the switch.

Results can vary depending on make, model and age of the vehicle, how the car is driven and the type of journey. Additionally, you might need to fill up three or four times to see if you notice any of the improvements listed above.

  1. Change the oil

As it’s responsible for keeping everything in your vehicle clean, cool and running smoothly, engine oil must be changed regularly in order to keep your car operating at optimal efficiency. Check your vehicle’s handbook for the recommended service intervals.

For a more detailed explanation of changing your engine oil, check out our in-depth guide here.


  1. Change the air filter

If the airflow clogged up, air can’t reach the engine, leading to a build-up of harmful deposits that can cause premature damage. Most service packages will include a replacement of the air filter, so be sure to stick to the recommended service intervals of once a year.  

  1. Check your tyre pressure

You might not think your tyre pressure would have any effect on emissions. However, low pressure increases fuel consumption and CO2 emissions too, with a tyre that's under-inflated by 20% reducing a car’s fuel economy by 20%. Check that your tyre pressure is in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations at least once a month to ensure you're not unnecessarily adding to the creation of emissions.

Additionally, your tyre’s tread depth can similarly affect your emissions. One way to check that they’re at the right depth is by placing a 20p coin into the tread, if the 20p’s outer band is obscured when inserted, then your tread is above the legal limit.

For more information on how to keep your tyres in perfect condition, check out our article here.

  1. Reduce air conditioning usage

Air conditioning is a luxury, but we all get carried away with it at times. Switching it on makes the engine work harder, increasing the vehicle’s emissions as a result. A few miles before you reach your destination, turn off the air-con so the system will continue to circulate cool air through its fans.

If your vehicle has a climate control system - a more sophisticated form of air-con that allows the car's interior to be more accurately controlled - then it may be more fuel-efficient to use compared to driving with the windows down. Driving with your windows down creates drag on the vehicle which can make fuel consumption skyrocket.

A good rule of thumb if you absolutely have to use your air-con/climate control is to use it minimally when driving at speed, and to open windows with air-con off when stuck in slow-moving traffic, as the drag won't affect you at such speeds.

  1. Reduce idle time

Leaving the vehicle running, such as when you’re stuck in traffic, can create further emissions. If you’re likely to be waiting for longer than 10 seconds – and definitely more than a minute – then switch off the engine. Idling for 10 seconds actually wastes more fuel than restarting, so try to avoid falling into the habit of keeping the car running.

If your car has a stop-start system, then make sure it’s switched on. Unnecessary idling creates dirty air, and drivers may be unknowingly causing harm to schools, hospitals or care homes if they’re in the vicinity.

In fact, there’s been a push to introduce “no idling” zones in areas where pollution is particularly bad or people are at a higher risk, with councils expected to be given greater powers to enforce these areas if given the go-ahead.


  1. Consider your driving habits

If you’ve gotten into some bad habits over the years, you can decrease your emissions by thinking about the way you drive. Even small changes can have a big impact on how much you produce, so consider changing gear earlier, staying out of the upper rev range, braking sooner and just slowing down will all reduce wear and tear, and maintain efficiency in the process.

  1. Avoid unnecessary trips

Have a think about whether you really need to use the car to get to where you want to go. Can you walk it or use a bike? Quick trips are some of the least efficient so perhaps you can combine two trips in one journey.

  1. Maintain your vehicle’s aerodynamic efficiency

If you have a roof rack, roof box or bike carrier fitted to your vehicle, this will create resistance and cause drag, but you can make a real change by just taking them off the car when they’re not in use.

  1. Avoid excess weight

Similarly, when your boot is full of heavy items, your car has to work harder and will burn more fuel as a result. If you clear out your car of any unnecessary weight then it’ll not only be more pleasurable to drive, but be more fuel efficient too!


We hope you’ve found this handy guide helpful - you’ll find even more motoring advice on our blog. With years of experience, our team are here to make your car search simpler. Visit the homepage to search our huge range of nearly new cars or call us on 01332 426 687.