Top 4 Winter Car Care Tips for Better Air Quality


Can you feel the chill in the air and the smog in your lungs?

If you’re one of the many who live near busy roads, then you might have observed that the air pollution in your area is worse during the snowy season. And it’s not a trick of the imagination.

Aside from the fact that air is more visible during colder months, temperature inversions also occur more frequently during winter. As a result, dust, pollution, and particulate matter are trapped for long periods of time in the air that we breathe.

This is further exacerbated by the increasing number of vehicles on the road. According to one study, 278 million light vehicles are operating on US roads alone—the highest number since 2016. And it’s no secret cars affect air quality. The more cars there are, the higher the air pollution and the higher the threat to your health.

So, what can you do about it?

Well, you can start by implementing better winter car care to decrease the air pollution produced by your vehicle, further improving the air quality around you.

Tip #1: Do Not Idle Your Car

There’s a long-standing belief that warming your car before using it will help defrost its engine and improve its performance. Unfortunately, it’s a myth that’s harming both you and your car.

When idling your car, you release fuel to your car’s combustion chamber repeatedly until you drive. As a result, you’re burning fuel without consuming miles and without warming your engine. Worse, you’re releasing unnecessary toxic gases into the atmosphere. A study by the US Energy Policy found that vehicle idling is responsible for 1.6% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Instead of idling, vehicle engineers and other experts recommend skipping idling and driving your car right away. This will not only improve fuel efficiency, but it will also reduce emissions. Also, if you live in a colder climate, then you can use a block heater to warm up your car faster instead of idling. 

Tip #2: Maintain Your Car

Your car, just like any other machine, needs regular maintenance. This includes taking care of your car by doing tasks like:

  • Replacing your clogged air filters
  • Inflating and aligning your tires
  • Using the recommended motor oil
  • Inspecting your brakes, radiator, fluids, exhaust pipe, and battery
  • Tuning up your car as needed

In doing so, you ensure that your car is performing its best and lengthening its lifespan. More importantly, you minimize particulate matter and ground-level ozone pollution. And so, you improve the air quality around you and in your car while reducing any health risks.

In fact, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reports that you’ll be reducing the following pollutants and toxins in the air:

  • Nitrogen Oxides
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Sulfur Oxides
  • Ammonia

Tip #3: Plan Your Trips ahead

Spending hours in traffic can be a headache. Not only that, but it can also be a health hazard. A study by Atmospheric Environment states that the air pollution inside a car during traffic is 40% higher than when there’s no traffic. That’s because the pollution around you can seep through your car and recirculate in your vents.

However, you can avoid this by planning your trip. Here are some examples:

  • Drive during off-peak hours (especially during the winter holiday season).
  • Avoid going out on bad weather days.
  • Steer clear of busy roads and traffic congestion if possible.

Tip #4: Drive Smarter

Your driving habits play a significant role in improving the air quality around you. One such example is by driving at a steady speed and following the location’s speed limit.

This not only ensures better fuel economy but also reduces air pollutants and toxins—particularly nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. In contrast, if you continuously accelerate your car, you can waste up to 18% of your fuel on gasoline vehicles and 12% on diesel.

Another way to drive smarter is by not overloading your car. Adding too much weight to your car results in burning more fuel and increases the chances of an accident on slippery winter roads.

Improve Air Quality in Your Car

Cars aren’t the only source of air pollution, but they contribute to it in greater numbers, especially during the snowy months. As a driver and car owner, you need to be responsible for the air pollution you emit and take action to minimize it as much as possible.

By following these winter car tips, you can do your part in helping to improve the air quality and protect your health. You can even take winter air quality safety one step further by investing in air quality monitors around your home.

Monitor the Particulate Matter levels around the world with our free, real-time PurpleAir Map or join PurpleAir's mission to make air quality data accessible to everyone by investing in an air quality monitor for your home.

Together, we can be informed and make changes in our daily habits and the community to improve air quality.