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Go Green By Driving It 'Til The Wheels Fall Off

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
edited April 2014 in General
Automobiles affect the environment in many ways. The impact on the environment begin when a vehicle is manufactured (including the production of all the parts and materials that go into the car), and end with its scrappage in a junkyard (which can recycle many parts but also involves the disposal of many wastes).

The environmental impacts begin with mineral extraction and the production of the raw materials that go into the parts of a car. For example, iron ore is converted into steel. Steel can be recycled, of course. On average,
today's automobiles are about 75 percent reyclable, and using recycled steel helps reduce energy use and pollution. Other metal components, such as aluminum and copper are also largely recycled. The lead and acid in batteries are poisonous and dangerous. But batteries can be recycled, if they are returned to a service station, a parts store, or brought to a municipal hazardous waste facility. Plastics, which are mostly made from petroleum, are more difficult to recycle. In any case, some degree of pollution is associated with all of these components, much of it due to the energy consumption, air pollution, and releases of toxic substances that occur when automobiles are manufactured and distributed.

The bottom line is that the motorist who extends the life of his car, through careful maintenance and usage may be doing more to help the environment than the average prius owner, but the former gets much less visibility and recognition for his contribution than the latter.

The purpose of this topic is to have a introduce a forum for discissing the environmental impact associated with vehicle production. While I'm not as knowledgeable as I'd like to be on this subject, for some time now I've thought about the fact that maybe not enough effort has gone into studying the environmental effects of auto manufacturing, compared with the effects of fuel consumption.


  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    that something like 2/3 of all the energy used by a vehicle in its lifetime is used in its manufacture. Once we get these pesky cars and trucks cleaned up, you know what will be by far our biggest single-industry source of both pollution and greenhouse gas emissions: the power industry.

    So if your new car uses that much energy before you even drive it off the lot, well, you can see how much good you are doing the environment by just keeping your old car going instead...

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,178
    Keeping a car for a long time is both environmentally sound and good economics. My wife keeps her cars for a long time. Her 1990 Lexus LS400 is in great condition. She has never bought a car on time and keeps them for a long time after. She has only bought Mercedes, Porsche and Lexus. This Lexus is the longest she has owned a vehicle. She worked and saved until she could pay cash. If we were all to do that our country would be in better financial and environmental condition.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    How many miles does your wife's '90 Lexus have? Since I remember that she bought it used, how many miles per year does she drive.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,178
    She bought it brand new in 1989. It has a little past 91k miles as of today. She has put about 5000 miles a year. She retired from their contracting business in 1993 to take care of her husband that had a stroke. So it spent a lot of time in the garage or short trips to the doctor's office.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    Sorry, I obviously have you confused with another Edmunds reader; someone who bought used luxury cars and drove them for many years.
  • SylviaSylvia Posts: 1,636
    I have a 1991 Volvo 940 wagon that has 180,000 miles on it. It is well maintained, does better than our newer Honda in the smog check and I plan on keeping it out of the junkyard for a number of years. :)
  • SylviaSylvia Posts: 1,636
    Subaru and Saturn come to mind as manufacturers publicly talking about how their process is different, use of recycled materials, etc.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,178
    I don't see being recyclable as being green. I see a vehicle that lasts for many years (10+) a better alternative than a car that is loaded with materials that can be recycled after 5 years. I think what Subaru, Saturn and Toyota are saying is we build a great disposable car that can be recycled to sell you another POC after 3-5 years. I want a vehicle that after 15 years of regular maintenance is still in good running condition.

    Remember it takes more energy to recycle than to use new raw materials. The only advantage is not overloading our landfills with junk cars.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    Are you sure that ground-to-factory, it takes less energy to extract the ore and produce steel that goes into production than it does to recycle the cars we already have? I don't know the numbers but that sounds counter-intuitive. I mean there's a reason we have been recycling all those cans all these years, eh? ;-)

    Have you read something specific or are you speculating?

    And what if the fully recyclable car will ALSO last 15 years, like your Lexus? I have certainly owned Toyotas and Subarus that old, so it is by no means an unheard-of phenomenon.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • Remember it takes more energy to recycle than to use new raw materials. The only advantage is not overloading our landfills with junk cars.

    You can't say stuff like that without backing it up with facts. Plenty of materials cost less to recycle then they do to make from raw materials. Aluminum and steel are the first two I can think of but there are others.

    here is one

    and another

    one more should I keep going?

    Here is one for steel and Aluminum

    Now if you want to talk about glass then you are correct. Glass is so easy to make that it doesn't make sense to recycle it except to save landfill space. Unless you reuse glass bottles whole like they do for beer in most of Canada. They return the bottles intact to store which ships them back to the bottler were they are steam cleaned and refilled.

    This is kind of a sore point for me because my university discontinued their recycling plan because someone on the board had the same view as you. They convinced enough people that it takes more energy to recycle then it does to make new materials. One of my senior year projects was developing a plan to restart the recycling program and I calculated out how much less energy it takes to recycle various materials compared to making brand new items from raw materials.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    Re your '91 Volvo 940 wagon, how has the reliability been? For example, is the A/C original, or have you converted to the newer R-34 refrigerant?
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,178
    Forgive me for my haste and not being more specific.
    I was thinking of all the plastic in new cars. The steel, copper and aluminum are good to recycle. Also the electronics that are not really that practical to recycle. Yet they are the parts that cost a fortune to replace.

    I find it counter productive to build cars with recycling rather than longevity in mind. I don't gauge a car by miles driven. I gauge by years of light service.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    But the assumption that cars built using recyclable parts won’t last as long is flawed. And many of them actually already use recycled pieces.
  • Steel and aluminum are still make up the vast majority of new car construction by weight.

    Even the plastic in most cars can be recycled depending on what kind of plastic it is The glass and upholstery in cars are probably the only things that don't really make sense to recycle.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    And even then, isn't it Ford that's making the seats in one of its models out of some funky, fully biodegradable organic material? So after it has done its 15 years, you just dump it in the landfill and it completely biodegrades....pretty cool! ;-)

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • Thats right ford is making the seat cushions out of a soy bean based material. But it is not fully biodegradable yet since some of the seat is still oil based.

    It still saves the company from using oil to make the seats.
  • My dad had a honda he kept for almost 15 years. It was accord and was extremely durable. He now owns a lexus and has driven it for about seven years and its still in great shape. I think it's a great practice to conserve your vehicle and make it last for a long time.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    do this with all my cars but alas, I get the itch to trade all too often. :-(

    Old or new, I haven't ever sold or scrapped a car because it needed major repairs, except the very first one I ever had.

    I am going to try harder in future...


    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    1982 Tercel - drove into Spring 1999 when a move forced its sale.

    1989 Voyager - drove it for a decade. Replaced by a ...

    1999 Quest that's doing fine at 120,000 miles although it's overdue for plugs, fluids and hoses.

    1997 Outback. Purchased in '03 to replace the void in the garage that the Tercel left (yep, about 8 years in there we did fine sharing one car).

    Before '82 we had a couple of beaters that were mostly used up when we got them.

    Check out the The Disposable Car? discussion too.
  • kcflyerkcflyer Posts: 78
    It just slays me every time I see some holly wood [non-permissible content removed] or politico showing the world how environmentally "sensitive" they are by driving a (fill in the blank with the latest prius or hemp mobile" I always wonder how many other vehicles they have gone through in the last few years. If they wanted to show true green cred I would be more impressed if they picked up a used car with lots of life still in it. Also, they never seem to show up at the awards shows in their me too green mobiles, its always a stretch limo, I didn't realize those came in hybrid form. :confuse:
    BTW I drive a 7 year old sentra with 95K on it. In the garage is a 73 F250 that my dad bought when I was a kid. I like buying new cars too. But what I really love is finding one I love and making it last. My 87 Mustang GT stayed strong to 147K before temporary insanity made me trade it for a terrible Mitsu 3000. Live an learn.
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Manson, WAPosts: 7,234
    what was the problem with your Mitsubishi 3000GT?

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • corvettecorvette United StatesPosts: 5,714
    I'm not kcflyer, but my memory of the 3000GT and its sibling the Dodge Stealth is that they are not widely regarded as dependable. Also, they are fairly uncommon, so parts availability may be a problem, especially compared to a Mustang.
  • kcflyerkcflyer Posts: 78
    It was a host of electrical problems. Mine was a 94 GT. Beautiful car, bought on impulse and traded my beloved mustang for it. In the first four months the car was in the shop at least 5 times. (memory fades) Each problem was covered under warranty even though I bought the car used. I guess I was hypersensitive since I had only had one maintenance problem with the Mustang in 9 years and 145K miles. It's been awhile so mainly I remember the frustration of having to drive a loaner while my "new" car sat week after week in the dealers shop. I would pick it up only to discover the problem wasn't fixed or had been replaced by others. Both of the rear side windows had to be replaced. It had something to do with de lamination in the glass. Don't recall the cause. Power antenna would constantly get stuck and the motor would continue to run until I turned off the ignition. Multiple check engine lights. Never caused by the same code twice. Dead battery on several occasions despite the battery and alternator being replaced (the alternator twice)I would chalk it up to the previous owner but my mustang was also second hand, both cars had around 15k miles when I bought them. After six months I had enough and traded a guy who wanted it in exchange for a convertible dodge dakota. By then the car was behaving but I was engaged and needed to eliminate a car payment. Now that was a good trade!
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Manson, WAPosts: 7,234
    should I just spell that one out and have it hit me with the reality of the situation that it's a Dodge Dakota pickup truck that you can take the top down on?

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    Yes, if you can believe it, this was a factory option for a few years (early 90s I believe).
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    What, seriously?

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • You have never seen a Dakota Convertible?

    1989 saw the unusual Dakota convertible. The first American convertible pickup since the Ford Model T, it featured a fixed roll bar and an uncomplicated manual top. Roughly 2,482 were sold that first year. Another important addition that year was Carroll Shelby's V8-powered Shelby Dakota, his first rear-wheel drive vehicle in two decades.


    I have worked on two different ones over the years.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,043
    Here's more than you probably want to know about the Dakota convertible.

    Oh, as for driving it till the wheels fall off, I'm sort of at a turning point with my 2000 Intrepid, which is around 137,000 miles. I put it in the shop this evening to have the mechanic check out the front suspension (getting a bit loose) and the a/c (getting a bit weak). If he can find a few thousand $ worth of repairs there, I might just be tempted to bite the bullet and put it out of its misery!
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    It's amazing how fast those 7 years went by; I managed to get 135K miles over 10 years out of my '90 Sable before selling it. I had a lot more problems than you did over the years, but everything was fixed when I sold it -- for a whopping $1800!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,043
    It's amazing how fast those 7 years went by

    Heck, it'll be EIGHT years on November 6! It's downright scary how fast that time has gone by! And as long as the suspension problems aren't too scary, I'll go ahead and get it fixed, and just drive it until something major fails on it. I figure if the a/c repair is too catastrophic, I can just live without it, as long as the windows still roll down! Nothing worse than having a car with broken power windows AND a busted a/c!
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