Cleaner, Greener SUVs: Smog Busters

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Even if you're not in the market for a new vehicle, there are several ways to be green with your present one-beyond the always prudent, but seldom heeded, "slow down."

Warming the engine isn't necessary in most modern vehicles. Give the car 30 seconds to ensure the oil is flowing, and then drive off slowly.

Whether you carry your skis in a rack or car-top box, a wind-deflecting fairing will make your vehicle more aerodynamically efficient and reduce cabin noise.

Be sure your tires are properly inflated (check your manual or the label in the door jamb, glove box or gas-cap door). Underinflated tires can cause fuel consumption to increase by 6 percent. Tires lose about one pound of pressure per month and one pound for every 10-degree drop in temperature. Check your tires with a gauge when they're cold; radial tires can be underinflated and still look OK.

Change your oil as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Some oils contain additives that reduce friction and can increase a vehicle's fuel economy by 3 percent or more.

Empty your trunk or cargo compartment of unused items. For every 100 pounds you carry, fuel economy drops by 1 percent.

Change your air filter frequently. It keeps impurities in the air from clogging and damaging internal engine components; a dirty filter can cause up to a 10 percent increase in fuel consumption.

A poorly tuned engine can increase fuel consumption by as much as 20 percent, but the symptoms are often masked. Periodically track your vehicle's mileage performance. -S.C.Clean and Green
Confused about emissions acronyms? Here's a look at the current staircase, which gets cleaner and greener as you step up. If you see an SUV rating preceded by HDT, that stands for Heavy Duty Truck, which means the standards are less stringent (more polluting) than for a similarly rated passenger vehicle SUV. For example, the average light HDT-LEV emits 40 percent more pollution than an LEV car.

Tier 1 Current minimal national standard for passenger cars

Tier 1-D Current national standard for diesels

TLEV Transitional Low Emission Vehicle

LEV Low Emission Vehicle

ULEV Ultra Low Emission Vehicle

SULEV Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle