How to Fix Your Car’s Exhaust Emissions
Every fuel-burning car produces exhaust emissions. However, not all emissions are created equal: some cars have a relatively clean exhaust, free from the chemicals that create smog and acid rain. Other cars’ emissions are, well, dirty. That’s how cars either pass or fail emissions tests: a car fails not because it has more emissions, but because it has dirtier emissions.
Having dirty emissions is bad for the environment, bad for your health (and the health of everyone who breathes the air), and bad for trying to get your car inspected in many states. So how can you clean up your car’s emissions and avoid such problems?
What Causes Dirty Emissions?
When your car’s engine burns fuel, it’s really performing a chemical reaction. Gasoline and oxygen molecules break up and recombine to create H2O (water) and CO2 (carbon dioxide).
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work, if everything goes perfectly. Nothing ever goes perfectly. When the fuel does not burn cleanly, you get other emission products. CO (carbon monoxide), famous for being deadly in high enough doses, is one such unfortunate result. Another is nitrogen oxide, or NOx, which can come in several different forms and is responsible for creating both ozone and acid rain. Unburned fuel particles can also contribute to air pollution, along with soot or smoke particles.
So what causes cars to not burn fuel cleanly, and create dirty exhaust? Often, it’s because the engine itself is dirty. Over time, carbon deposits can accumulate inside engines. Engine deposits can both cause improper combustion, and be caused by it, since the impurities left behind by an incomplete burn add to the existing deposits. It’s an unfortunate cycle.
Having the wrong fuel-air mixture can also cause a dirty exhaust, because fuel can’t burn cleanly unless it has the correct ratio of oxygen to combine with. Having a dirty injector or carburetor can sometimes cause the fuel-air mixture to be off. Often, this results in a visibly smoky exhaust.