Because of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of folks have been spending more time at the house. People are working from home and quarantining or social distancing in their off time, which means that daily driver is probably sitting around getting much less use. But, it's important to know about proper car maintenance when letting your vehicle sit for long periods of time.
It doesn't take much, and if you truly care about the longevity of your car, it's worth it to take a few extra steps for additional protection. Let's run through a few routine maintenance tips so your car can be good as new once you get back on the road.
Take Care of Your Fuel
Maintaining good fuel in the tank is one of the biggest things vehicle owners can do for their engine components and fuel system. When a car sits for a while, gas-tank condensation tends to form, and it can leave large amounts of water in the tank. Restarting the engine after that long period will run that mixture through the fuel lines, fuel pump, and through the fuel injectors. You don't want any amount of fuel in this condition to run through your car's engine.
In order to prevent this, you should do one of two things. If you're only parking it for a month or two, you can keep the gas tank completely full, and it will limit the room for condensation. If you're going to have it sit for longer than that, you really should add a fuel stabilizer. The stabilizer will help the fuel from going bad. You can find products like Sta-Bil and Sea Foam at any automotive store.
Basic Service and Maintenance
Battery maintenance is huge, because you'd be surprised just how quick your car battery can go dead without the alternator constantly charging it while the engine is on. If you know your car is going to be sitting, it's good to hook up a trickle charger to the battery. It's never a good feeling when you turn the key and there's no power.
Take a little time to change the fluids on the vehicle. We all know you'll have plenty of time around the house for projects. Do an oil change and ensure that the engine oil is at the proper level, and you should also check the coolant and brake fluid. Sometimes these things get overlooked with a busy schedule, so it's good to stay on top of it when you have little more downtime.
Air filters are one of the easiest things to change out on your vehicle. Most of the time you won't even need any tools. Replace the filter for your air box under the hood, so your engine can breath freely. Also, don't forget to replace the cabin air filter so that the air coming into the inside is fresh as well.
Let's not forget about the tires. First and foremost, you really want to make sure tire pressure is correct. For a car that's sitting for a while on low tires, it can create creases and flat spots in the tire. Not only will this cause a loss in traction and a rough ride, it will also affect gas mileage when you're back out on the road. You get more mileage if your tires are properly inflated.
Lastly, I'd recommend changing your spark plugs. More than likely, it's overdue anyway, and it normally takes no time to change them. They're also pretty cheap, and it's a good way to ensure your engine is firing efficiently. You can knock it out while you're changing the oil.
Keep It Clean
Let's be honest, no one likes to hop into a dirty car. Might as well get a nice good wash on the outside of the vehicle and a clean on the inside. Dedicate one day to get it done, and you'll be glad you did it when you finally get back to driving more frequently.
Some people don't have the luxury of having a garage, or a place to keep their car out of the elements. If that's you, then invest in a quality cover for the exterior. The sun can destroy clear coats, paint, and rubber trim extremely fast, so it's good to block out the sunlight, rain, and debris from your ride. Make sure it's a good quality cover though. Cheaper ones with a rough texture can actually scratch the paint which can lead to rust buildup.
Crank It Up Occasionally
Believe it or not, you can actually skip a lot of these steps if you just turn your car on and let the engine warm up for a bit. Having the car idle for a while allows the fluids to circulate and prevent them from going bad. You should also move the car, even if it's just up and down the driveway. Getting the wheels turning every week or two will help keep everything operating the way that it needs to be. Idling the car helps a lot more than you realize. I mean, these machines are made to operate, so it's good to bring them back to life every now and then.
COVID-19 has brought everyone lots of spare time. It's a blessing for some, and a curse for others, but why not take advantage and get on top of car care while your ride's on the back burner? You'll pat yourself on the back when you avoid having to do it later.
This post was originally published on June 12, 2020.