People in cities throughout the US and beyond continue to stay home, doing their part to contain the spread of COVID-19. It may be the only time in history you’ll be doing everyone a favor by binge-watching Tiger King on Netflix. Meanwhile, freeways are clear and parking lots are empty. All those cars that used to pack the roads at rush hour are now parked at home, sitting idly like sleeping tigers. But even though you’re probably saving a lot of money on gas right now, there are still things you should do to keep your car healthy. Here are some tips for maintaining your unused car while we all wait out this quarantine together.
Clean it up
Clean both the inside and outside of your car. Throw out the old Taco Bell bag, bring in that self-help book about waking up early that your friend gave you, and recycle the fourteen water bottles in your back seat. Cleaning up trash and clutter inside your car helps prevent mold from forming and keeps bugs away. To avoid theft, take any valuables out and try not to leave anything on the seats. Wash the outside of your car to protect your paint job, and once it’s clean, coat your car with wax and polish; use an undercoating on metals to protect against rust. It’ll probably rain the next day, but that’s just how it is.
Keep it covered
If possible, it’s best to store your car in a covered area like in a garage or under an overhang. However, we know that’s not always an option. Most of us are street parkers and we’re all just grateful they’ve suspended residential street sweeping in most cities. If you don’t have access to a covered area, consider buying a fitted car cover. By keeping your car covered, you can avoid unwanted critters, deter theft, and protect your car from the sun, tree sap, inconsiderate birds, bad drivers, and the weather.
Inflate your tires
When your car sits for an extended period, air slowly seeps out of its tires, especially in colder weather. If you let the life gradually leave your tires, not only is it mean (your tires have done nothing but support you!), but you also run the risk of developing flat spots and cracking the side walls. Filling your tires to the recommended pressure helps make sure they don’t deflate too much while you’re not using your car. Also, if you’re able, consider propping your car up on four jacks or blocks of wood to take the pressure off. It might look weird, but hey, so does a dress shirt with sweatpants. And we’re not judging.
Top off liquids
Old liquids left in your car for long periods of time can eventually cause damage to your engine and other car parts. If your car is going to be sitting for a while, top off liquids like wiper fluid, engine coolant, brake fluid, and transmission fluid. It’s also a good idea to get an oil change. Used oil contains things that can damage your car like moisture, metal filings, and–this is a technical term–sludge. After all that, take your car for a quick drive to circulate the fluids. You can also use this time to wave to your neighbors from a distance of six feet or more, listen to the radio, or just take a few minutes to pretend you’re going somewhere fun.
Maintain your battery
If you’re not driving, car batteries will lose their charge over time. In other words, they’re more like Aesop’s hare than Energizer’s bunny. To avoid a dead battery, start your car every two weeks and drive it for about 15 minutes. You could make it fun by listening to half of a podcast every two weeks. Does that not sound fun? An added benefit is that the quick drive will keep the engine and other car parts in better shape. You can also run the AC to maintain your air filters. If you can’t drive, you can just unplug your battery or get a battery tender.
Fill your tank
Just like topping off other liquids in your car, make sure you have a full tank of gas. Luckily, gas is pretty cheap right now and a full tank can help prevent moisture and rust from building up. Make sure the tank is fully sealed. In other words, promise you won’t drive off with your gas cap on the roof of your car. The shelf life of standard fuel is three months, so if you plan to let your car sit for an extended period, consider adding a fuel stabilizer to protect your engine and fuel lines from corrosion.
Keep off the brakes
Under normal circumstances, it’s a good idea to use your hand brake every time you park. Yes, even if you drive an automatic. It’s always bad to drive with your hand brake on, but that’s a story for another time. When you’re not driving regularly, you actually should avoid the hand brake. If the brake pads make contact with the rotors for too long, they may fuse together, damaging your brakes. Instead, get a tire stopper to prevent your car from rolling. Don’t want to spend money on a stopper? You can DIY it with a brick or a piece of wood.
Stay safe, stay indoors, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, don’t hoard essential goods, call your friends and family, and stay up to date with us on our blog.