Driving Less because of COVID-19? Mark has some car care tips!
I hope that you’re all doing as well as can reasonably be expected (as my grandpa used to say). The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has reduced driving for a lot of people, and I've been getting a lot of questions about what should be done to keep these sitting cars from atrophy (so that they can also do as well as can reasonably be expected). The main dangers that your car faces when not being used are:
1) The brake rotors get rusty enough that the pads will not scrub the rust off when the car is first driven again. This results in a brake pulsation (that vibrating sensation when the brakes are applied). The rusting process is accelerated when the weather is wet. All it takes to avoid this is to take the car for a little drive and apply the brakes a few times. Even once every 2-3 weeks or so would be enough.
2) The battery dies. Even when the car is turned off, it is drawing a small amount of current from the battery (less than 50 milliamps) to keep radio and other control module memory alive. Under normal use, the car’s alternator charges the battery while you drive. Most cars will tolerate a month to several months of non-use, but if your battery is already weak, it could take less time than that to encounter a problem. If you’re not sure about your battery’s health, feel free to make an appointment for us to test it for you. Once again, taking your car out once a week or every other week will keep this from being a problem.
3) Flat tires. Massachusetts is hard on cars. The salty winter roads and generally humid climate are really hard on metal parts. A lot of cars we see have slowly leaking tires due to corrosion between the rim flanges and the tire beads (this is where the sealing between the two takes place) or from the valve stem seals (the valve stem is where you put the air in). You might already be in a situation where you are adding air to the tires now and again and think it’s annoying. If you are not using your car, you will not be driving past a gas station to get your weekly air top-off, and your tire(s) may get low enough that it would be damaging to drive on them. We can get rid of the annoyance and the danger if you call and make an appointment.
4) Rodents. Those pesky critters take very little time to make themselves comfortable in your engine compartment or passenger cabin. They then proceed to chew up fibrous things (like your air filters and insulation) and your wiring. They even like the plastic fuel lines! It’s a good idea to set your HVAC system to recirculate before you park the car for an extended period. This closes the fresh air duct and limits their opportunity to get inside the car. If you have a garage, make room for your car in there. Try not to keep any food or wrappers in the car. Taking the car out for an occasional drive also helps them to not think that your car is a suitable home.
What this boils down to is DRIVE YOUR CAR! Even if you don’t have a specific destination, you can have a specific purpose: keeping your car healthy and happy. Maybe try to think of your car like a dog that needs to go for a regular walk. This advice can also be applied during non-COVID-19 times for second or third cars that don’t get driven regularly anyway. Hopefully none of us will be having our car sit long enough for any of the above to become an issue. I hope this information helps, and please call if you have any other questions or need help with a car problem.