COVID-19 and your car
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the brakes on driving for a lot of people, who have parked their cars and are heeding the guidelines to stay at home. They’re working from home or no longer have a job to drive to. Instead of weekly grocery runs, they’re ordering food and just about everything else online. Now, many neighbourhoods are full of parked cars and resemble used car lots.
The battery loses its charge
It might come as a surprise, but your car is still working even when you’re not driving it. “Just like your laptop or mobile phone, your car battery is running the computer inside your vehicle at all times,” says Joe Akers, director of operations at Cowles Nissan. If you’re not going to be driving your car for a few weeks, Akers recommends placing your vehicle on a trickle charger. “These chargers continue to supply power to a car battery when the vehicle is not in use,” Akers says. Oh, and don’t forget to remove the phone charger, dash-cam, and any other power-consuming devices plugged into the cigarette lighter port. “These devices slowly seep your juice, too,” notes Jesse Yuvali owner of Jesses’ Garage European Auto Repair.
Tyres get flat spots and lose pressure
Have you ever woken up with one side of your hair flat because you slept on it all night? The same thing happens when tyres ‘sleep’. They develop flat spots when they are stationary. “The weight of the car constantly putting pressure on the same part of the tyres create a dent,” says Akers. It’s something you’ll definitely feel when you get back in the driver’s seat. Tyres lose pressure when they sit at about one to two PSI per month. “A quick spin around the block once a week will help avoid this problem,” Akers adds. Use a tyre pressure gauge to check the pressure before you drive it again. You don’t have to worry about making it to the petrol station to get air when you have a portable compressor at home.
Ants move in
The French fries scattered under the seat and almost-empty smoothie cup are secretly sending out invitations to ants. “Remove all garbage, particularly soft drink cans, food, sugary snacks as they will attract ants that will find a way to get inside,” says Yuvali. While you’re at it, take out your running shoes and gym clothes. If you don’t, the contents will slowly and quietly brew a stink fest for your return.
Fluids and oils go stale
The fluids in your car are essential for many components. For example, brake fluid is pressurised and gives you the power needed to brake. Without power steering fluid, it would take a lot of muscle just to turn the steering wheel. When a car is stationary for a long time, fluids get stale and can pool in certain areas. “Older oil won’t lubricate as fresh oil would,” says Yuvali. The oil keeps the metal components lubricated, so you don’t get that ticking noise of metal hitting metal, or worse, the engine overheating. Run the engine every two weeks for about 10 minutes (or take a short drive) to keep things under the hood lubricated.
Now discover five-minute car-care fixes.
Seals dry up
You might not be worried about the cooling relief of air conditioning if you live in a cold climate, but you do if temperatures and humidity soar. Yuvali notes the air conditioning seals can dry out when you don’t drive your car, which leads to integrity issues, and you can lose freon. No freon means hot and sweaty car rides in the future. “If you rely on your AC system, it needs lubrication, which you can achieve by turning the vehicle and the AC on for 10 minutes,” he says.
Consider your petrol tank
Petrol is a fickle thing in your tank. “If you leave the fuel tank near empty, it builds up moisture, which isn’t ideal,” Yuvali says. “However, if you fill it up to the brim before parking it long-term, it will overflow if the weather gets warmer as the petrol can expand. Additionally, petrol goes bad after a short time.” If your car is sitting with half a tank, fill it up with fresh petrol when you start driving again. Or add an enzyme fuel stabiliser to the petrol to prevent it going stale; think of it as a probiotic for your petrol tank.
Damage from tree sap
Springtime brings the arrival of tree sap. A very sticky substance released naturally from trees. If your car is parked in the street or a driveway under a sap-seeping tree, you could find a sticky mess on your vehicle when you drive it again. Sap is extremely sticky and difficult to remove. It can also be problematic when it comes to the paint, particularly if the clear coat is damaged already, Yuvali says. Remove it with a tree sap cleaner as soon as you notice it, because as temperatures warm up, the sap heats up, causing more paint damage.
Tree sap will also be a problem when we get self-driving cars.
Damage from bird poo
A weekly carwash removes bird poo before it can cause any deterioration on car paint, but when your car is parked under trees or where birds regularly roost, like utility lines, a splattering of bird poo builds up quickly to an unsightly mess. Bird poo consists of uric acids, and that’s not water-soluble, which means it’s a nightmare to remove one spot, let alone dozens. Like tree sap, bird poo can penetrate the clear coat – the car’s protective layer. Wash it off as soon as possible with car wash soap, not dish soap, which isn’t formulated for cars.
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