Social distancing means staying off the road, too, with some people not driving their cars for weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic. That can cause breakdowns if you’re not wary.
Jay Sinon, an instructor with NASCAR’s Technical Institute in Mooresville, North Carolina, offered tips about heading off car trouble for those who might now park their vehicles for weeks at a time.
Oil and other fluids
Sinon said oil problems are most prevalent in areas of higher humidity. The humidity causes condensation problems in the oil’s metal pathways.
Still, if you’re not using a car for several months, he says, it’s smart to change the oil as a precaution before driving it again.
Cars not moving for long periods of time will create a flat spot on the tires. That’s probably not permanent damage, but you will notice a difference when you first drive. So you might as well take your car for a short spin around the neighborhood.
“It’s sitting on the pavement, just 2 or 3 inches” of the tire’s surface area, Sinon said of a flat spot, adding that you’ll likely feel a vibration initially if the tires sit idle.
“By (driving at least briefly), you’re moving it around and keeping it sealed really good. It won’t necessarily go flat (from being parked), but it will go down over time. We should check air pressure a couple of times a year, whether you’re driving the car or not.”
Sinon said this is your biggest concern, in part because all of the electronics in modern cars can drain batteries even when they are sitting idle.
“Without you driving your car on a daily basis, the battery is going to tend to go dead,” said Sinon. “Some of these cars have upwards of 100 computers. It takes four or five computers just to open the door on a modern-day car.”
Sinon advises starting your car once a week and letting it run for five to 10 minutes. That will get the car up to good operating temperature and recharge the battery.
If a car isn’t driven, Sinon said, it can become attractive to animals looking for a home. So, particularly if the car is outside, make sure nothing is nesting in it.
If your car will be parked outside for long periods, particularly with summer approaching, get sun shades to protect the car’s interior. He recommends getting one for the back window, as well — the top of your backseats also can be damaged by the sun.
Gasoline doesn’t last indefinitely in your tank, particularly fuels made partially from ethanol, Sinon said. “It can start to deteriorate within a month. It can go bad within six months,” Sinon said. He said old fuel won’t burn as well and can thicken, clogging injectors and pumps. He suggests, that when a car won’t be driven for a while, treat it like a lawnmower in the winter: Either drain the fuel or get a stabilizer from an auto-parts store to prolong fuel life.
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