What you can do to reduce your car’s emission output

Here are a few easy tips on how to keep the emission output of your car as low as possible.

Smoky Exhaust Pipes From A Starting Diesel Car

by Chris Williams |

Quit smoking lately? Maybe you could put the same challenge to your car.

The electric overhaul of transport is seen by the industry and most members of the public as a good thing because electric vehicles are quieter, cleaner, and faster.

Though still in its infancy, the rate at which people in the UK are taking up electric and hybrid vehicles is remarkable. In 2018 the number of plug-in vehicles registered in the UK was a smidge under 200,000. By the end of 2021 that number had sprung up to 740,000.

Certainly, UK bureaucrats want you to go electric. London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone has recently expanded; from 2022, all new buildings including homes must have EV chargers; and there is the big 2030 cutoff date for new pure combustion engine cars in the UK.

How to make your ICE car run cleaner

While you may be eying up a plug-in car in the near future not everyone is in a position to make the change just yet, be it for financial or practicality reasons. Thus, the majority of us still run around in cars powered by exploding fuel.

Should you still buy a diesel car in 2022?

While most modern diesel and petrol engines are amazingly efficient and clean, you may be wondering if there is any more you can do the make your car run cleaner. There are some suggestions we have that will help.

The key is to think about efficiency and where it can be gained. A well-maintained car is a clean-running car.

Fuel additives

Fuel cap on a classic car
©Photo: Bauer Media

These seem like a great quick fix but fuel additives only benefit older cars. If your car is less than about 10 years old, fuel additives won’t be of any benefit. The reason being that youthful cars have onboard computers and monitoring systems in place for the specific task of running the engine as cleanly and as efficiently as possible.

So if your vehicle is a bit older you can consider a fuel system cleaner to help get rid of any build-up of carbon deposits and like that accumulate on fuel injectors and valves. It’s a small thing to do that will help your older car run a bit cleaner.

STP Complete Fuel System Cleaner - Petrol 400 ml

Best additive for cleaning fuel systems
STP Complete Petrol Fuel System Cleaner 400 ml

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Add every 4000 miles. Removes deposits from injectors, valves and combustion chambers. There is a version for diesel engines too.

If you have a diesel car, it will likely use AdBlue. This liquid helps reduce emissions too and you don't need very much of it, which is handy. To find out more about AdBlue and getting your own supply, read our guide.


Honda oil top up
©Photo: CAR

This gloopy substance is vital to an engine because it lubricates it. Keep oil in good condition and at the correct level and that goes a very long way to making your engine run smoothly and efficiently. These days oil needs changing every 6,000 miles or so, unless your car uses fully synthetic oil, in which case it only needs changing every 10,000 miles or so.

Modern engine oils tend to either be fully synthetic or a blend of mineral and synthetic oil. Synthetic is the best option for an engine because it can be manufactured to a higher standard. This is the most expensive option, however, because it costs more to produce.

Semi-synthetic options use both synthetic and mineral oils and are a great budget option. They still have better refinement than fully natural examples meaning they're better for your engine but do not cost as much to buy as fully-synthetic models.

Check your car’s manual to find out which oil it needs. You can also read our guides to the best engines oils and synthetic oils.

Castrol Edge 5W-30

CAR's top-rated engine oil
Castrol Edge 5W-30

View offer

Castrol Edge makes use of 'fluid titanium technology' to allow the oil to keep protecting the engine even under extreme pressure. The oil is designed to ensure that all parts of the engine are protected, keeping the internals safe from wear and enhancing the performance of your engine. It can also be used in diesel and hybrid engines.


Michelin tyre on a Ford Puma ST
©Photo: CAR

Tyre design has a noticeable impact on fuel consumption and therefore emissions. This is to do with rolling resistance. Tyres need to grip the road and with this grip comes rolling resistance. The ideal scenario is to have both but the two are kind of at odds with each other.

Yet tyre manufacturers work hard to balance the two and some are making good progress. According to the British Tyre Manufacturer’s Association, ‘There is a difference of six percent in fuel consumption between the lowest and highest-graded tyres.’

Our latest round of summer tyre testing has shown that the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 5 manages to pull off this trick reasonably well, scoring respectably in both handling and rolling resistance tests.

But in regard to your current tyres, keeping them inflated to the correct pressure will help both with fuel economy and even tyre wear. You can get your own decent tyre inflator without spending much.

We recommend the Ring Automotive RAC635 because it’s small, reliable, and efficient. It is a digital tyre inflator with a clever auto-shutoff feature that kicks in when it reaches a pre-set pressure. But if you want to go for a budget version there is the more basic but equally well-made analogue RAC610 too.

Drive? Why not cycle?

Commuter cycling over Waterloo Bridge
©Photo: Getty Images

Last but not least, consider if you need to drive on a certain trip at all. Cycling is healthy, cheap, and of course emission-free unless you've loaded up on baked beans for breakfast. With the emergence of e-bikes, this concept is more appealing than ever.

Read next:

Winter car check: what to do and what you need

The best diesel engine cleaner

The best all-season tyres for your car tested

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