In response to the spread of COVID-19, the federal government issued guidance to state and local governments to include the vehicle service and repair industry among those defined as “essential services” in our communities. As governors of most states have ordered non-essential businesses to close, many repair shops remain open. But plenty of drivers, either by choice or because they have been ordered to do so, are staying home and settling in. And their cars are staying put as well. In this time of national crisis, are there special maintenance steps you might take to care of your car whether or not you keep it in the park?
Sitting in Storage
With cases of the coronavirus still on the rise in many areas, and stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders enacted in most parts of the country, a good many auto owners are simply not driving their vehicles right now. In some cases, folks have chosen to stay at home almost entirely. In other cases, people are out and about only for necessary trips to the hardware store, bank, or market.
While health care providers, first responders, and others who work in a business listed as an essential service remain on the road for their daily commute, those who have been laid off from their “non-essential” jobs or are otherwise shut in at home find their cars, trucks, and SUVs sitting idle. If you fall into the camp that has decided to stay off the road, or if your family owns multiple vehicles and you decide to pare down to only one during the crisis, consider the following tips for keeping your dormant car in solid shape while it is out of commission.
1. Start and drive occasionally.
If possible, start the engine in your stationary vehicle once every other week and move it up and down the driveway or around the block. This helps to prevent a few problems from happening. Letting the engine run for a short while allows the fluids to circulate, helps reduce condensation in your engine, prevents your brake system from locking up with corrosion, and keeps your tires from developing flat spots from resting in one position. A short, 5-10 minute drive can also help the battery hold onto its charge.
2. Install a trickle charger.
Another easy and inexpensive way to prevent a dead battery is to install a trickle charger or battery tender. An automotive battery will lose its charge over time if it is not replenished. A trickle charger is a low-amperage device that will keep your battery at full voltage. Just make sure that the unit you select has the ability to shut off automatically, or go into “float mode”, when the battery is at full charge in order to avoid overcharging.
3. Add fuel stabilizer.
Just as you might do for your outdoor power equipment – your mower, trimmer, and chainsaw – you can add a measure of fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank prior to parking your car. This will stop the fuel from going bad, keeping it fresh for an easy start after storage. Stabilizer removes water in the fuel to prevent corrosion and helps clean fuel injectors. It also protects your engine and fuel system components from varnish and gum residue that can clog up the system. This is especially important if you do not intend to start and drive your vehicle at all while it is in storage. Add the stabilizer to the fuel tank and allow the engine to run for several minutes, preferably while driving so it can mix thoroughly and distribute throughout the fuel system.
4. Cover your car.
The sun, rain, and other environmental factors (sap, leaves, dirt, and sand) can wreak havoc on the paint, glass, trim, and rubber on your vehicle if you leave it outside and in one place for a long period of time. A quality paint sealant and wax can go a long way toward protecting your paint from UV rays and hard water spots. But if you are unable to park your car in a garage, carport, or other sheltered location, consider investing in a quality car cover. Not a cheap tarp that will collect moisture underneath and scratch your paint, but a soft-cloth cover designed to breathe and to be gentle on the finish.
5. Consider cleaning.
A stay-at-home order is like a prescription to get your spring cleaning done. It is also an opportunity to clean out your car as well. You might consider taking the time to vacuum out the interior, use a carpet and upholstery cleaner on cloth seats and carpet, or condition your leather seats. You can also treat the exterior – with a wash and wax, or even some paint correction with a clay bar. Just be careful. Improper handwashing at home can cause more damage than it cures.
6. Do some minor maintenance.
Whether you are car service savvy or not, there are some simple preventative maintenance procedures that you can do while your car sits at home. For instance, replacing the engine air filter and the cabin air filter is often not as difficult as you might expect. And they help both your engine and your occupants to breathe better. You can also take the time to check your oil, refill the washer solvent, top off the antifreeze (but only when the engine is cool), and take a look at your belts and hoses.
Still On the Road
Of course, you might not be interested in servicing your car yourself. You might prefer that someone else care for your car while it is not in use. Or you could be one of the many who continue to head out to your essential occupation every day, making your car just as crucial as your employment. In any case, many repair shops are open to service your vehicle during the COVID-19 crisis. Here are examples of some routine maintenance procedures that Columbia Auto Care can help you with:
Checking your oil regularly is essential; so is changing it at recommended intervals. Routine oil service is the single most important thing you can do to keep your engine running properly.
Other fluids and filters.
In addition to the engine oil and filter, there are several other fluids and filters that require periodic attention. For instance, your transmission, brake system, power steering, and cooling system all use fluids that need to be replaced from time to time. The engine air filter, cabin air filter, transmission filter, and fuel filter are also considerations.
Your tires will wear out over time, that is a given. But they will last longer if you keep them properly inflated and have them rotated regularly, about as often as you get the oil changed.
Service your brakes.
As the most important safety feature on your vehicle, your brakes need to remain in constant working order. When a car sits for long periods of time, corrosion begins to develop on the brake pads, rotors, calipers, and other brake system components. The parking brake also has a tendency to freeze up. If you are storing your vehicle, leave the parking brake off. If you are still driving it, listen for squealing sounds or other signs that your brakes are going bad. And if your brakes need repair, beware of the hidden costs of cheap brake service. Opt instead for a complete brake job by the professionals at a repair shop you can trust.
Transportation is essential for all of the people who remain vigilant in their occupations during the COVID-19 crisis. It is vital for anyone who needs to get to the grocery store for food, or the clinic for testing. And it will be necessary for everyone once the crisis is in the rearview mirror. Whether you are necessarily out and about in this time of crisis, or you are hunkered down for the long haul, there are some things you can do to maintain your health and safety, that of your friends and family, and that of your car.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
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