You and your family may find your vehicles being driven less frequently than usual, maybe even way less frequently, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about car maintenance. Otherwise when you do want to drive, there might be major problems.
According to our car experts here at American Auto Care/ASR, a car left parked for a long period of time may compromise the vehicle’s condition. This can potentially impact both the reliability and the safety of the vehicle.
There are many basic car care tasks, such as checking fluids and inspecting tires, that can be performed in your driveway. Some of them are:
Flat-spotting happens when the weight of the vehicle sitting on one spot flattens out a portion of the rubber on the tire. A month of being stationary might be enough to cause problems. Low tire pressure and very cold weather or very hot weather can both contribute to the development of flat spots.
When left unused for so long, brake rotors can begin to develop rust on the surface of the rotors. A parking brake engaged for a long period of time can actually cause the brake pads to bind to the rotors. Leave the parking brake off on flat surfaces only.
For safety considerations brake repairs are always preferable to a runaway car. For more information read understanding your brake system.
Over time, your car’s battery can discharge and leave you needing to jump-start your car. If you know your car will be sitting for a long time, you can always disconnect the battery.
Rats and other pests can take residence in vehicles not only parked outside on the street or in your driveway, but even parked in your garage. If your car has been parked for more than a few weeks, occasionally pop the hood and look for any evidence of chewed wires or belts. Also check in your engine compartment and around the top of your tires.
Your local car wash may or may not be open, and if your vehicle is parked outside, it’s likely to accumulate dust, bird droppings, and other contaminants, such as tree sap or water spots from nearby sprinklers.
Over time, exposure to the elements can damage your vehicle’s paint. If you can, park under cover or use a weatherproof car cover. If droppings or other localized contaminants do get on your paint, you can use a spot cleaner and a soft cloth.
Fluids are a major issue for long-term storage. Fuel can separate, and water vapor can accumulate in your gas tank. Gaskets and hoses that aren’t kept lubricated can dry out and become brittle.
Assess belts and wipers if they’re drying out. Windshield wipers tend to last about six months before needing to be replaced, with harsh winter conditions being especially tough on them.
If they are less than 6 months old, you may get more service by simply wiping them down with a paper towel moistened with glass cleaner.
If your vehicle is going to sit for two weeks or more, you might take these tips into consideration.
Make sure it gets up to full operating temperature before you shut it back down. Driving is a good solo activity, and a good way to shake off cabin fever.
However, do not use bleach or hydrogen peroxide, because those chemicals can damage the car interior. Also, do not use ammonia-based cleaners on car touch screens because they can damage their anti-glare and anti-fingerprint coatings.
But what if you have repairs or maintenance that cannot be postponed like having a true mechanical problem and/or your check-engine light is on? Many shops offer contactless drop off and pickup. If this is a concern, call your preferred car repair shop to see if they offer this service.
Here are the steps we recommend taking if your car needs service that you can’t perform yourself and you want to minimize contact with other people:
1. Call ahead
Make an appointment with a local shop. When you call, ask if their procedures are responsive to social distancing guidelines.
If possible, arrange to drop off the car to be worked on, without entering the facility, and pick it up three or more days later. The World Health Organization says that the virus “may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days,” depending on the surface and conditions.
So waiting to pick up your car several days after all work has been completed ensures no one has been in the car for several days. Let your repair shop know this is our preference.
2. Plan to wait or arrange transportation
If your required service won’t take long, you might make the choice to wait. Ask ahead of time about the waiting area and whether it’s easy to maintain the recommended distance from employees and other customers. Also ask whether your car can be worked on immediately upon dropoff.
Also ask if the space is being regularly cleaned. Bring whatever supplies you need to make you feel safe and comfortable.
If your service will take longer and you’re getting a loaner or rental car, make sure to sterilize the commonly touched surface or choose a local service center that allows you to stay in the car.
There’s also a chance that your scheduled maintenance may be postponed until after social-distancing measures are no longer necessary. Your service associate can help you make that decision.
For people who will have limited need to drive, stretching out service intervals makes sense. A few hundred extra miles between service visits won’t compromise an otherwise well-maintained car.
3. Sterilize your vehicle after pickup
Your car may be returned to you clean, and extra attention may have been paid to the interior by conscientious service people, but for your own safety and peace of mind sterilize common touch points inside your vehicle. This Includes the outside door handle.
We offer contactless service at American Auto Care and provide affordable car repair services.
Our mechanics work with any make and model of car, and our goal is to worry about your car so you don’t have to. Call us at 951-461-2507.