With many of us at home all the time during the coronavirus pandemic, we have drastically reduced how often we drive our cars. But you shouldn’t just leave it sitting: There are many things that can go wrong with an idle car.
So here is how to take care of your car, so it will run when you need it again.
Believe it or not, not driving your car really puts a toll on the battery.
“You will damage the battery because it is not being recharged,” said Joe Creighton of Creighton’s Auto Repair in Newtown, Bucks County. “If you are not driving around, at least run it 15 to 20 minutes every third or fourth day, but driving it is much better for the car.”
And driving the car helps more than just the battery. “If you drive it, it keeps the rust off the rotors and brakes,” he said. “Any piece of machinery that sits still, it is not good.”
According to yourmechanic.com, a mobile car-repair business, allowing your tires to move around prevents flat spots from developing. Another benefit of parking it in different positions is that you see your vehicle at different angles, and can more easily spot any changes.
"A tire wasn’t designed to support the weight of a vehicle if they are low on air,” said Greg Russ, vice president of services for Pep Boys. “Tires were designed to support the vehicle at proper pressure.” Check the pressure and keep the tires at the recommended level.
Even though people may be driving less, the oil could still get low. Creighton recommends checking the oil at least every 1,000 miles. Even newer cars need to have the oil frequently monitored.
“A lot of new cars use thinner oil and what happens is the engine burns that oil more and in about 3,000 miles you could be a quart low,” he said.
Even if your car isn’t running very much, your oil could still need changing. “Over time, the oil itself begins to break down even if you don’t drive a lot of miles,” said Russ of Pep Boys.
Depending on the grade of oil used and the car, a manufacturer may suggest, for example, changing your oil every three months or 3,000 miles. It’s very unlikely that most of us will drive 3,000 miles in three months during the pandemic. “Times like this when you aren’t driving, most manufacturers would say either do the number of miles or months, whichever comes first,” he said.
It seems like a simple request, but dirt can ruin a lot of parts of the car. “You have to keep the windows up and make sure that insects are kept out of the car,” Russ said. “It’s very important to keep the dust out.”