CINCINNATI - With many drivers living under stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic, vehicles may be sitting idle for days or weeks on end. But experts say letting your car sit for too long can potentially lead to maintenance issues and hefty repair bills.
“Just as it is recommended that people stay active during this time of social distancing, your car should get some activity as well,” said Rich White, the executive director of Car Care Council — a nonprofit that educates drivers on vehicle maintenance.
“If your vehicle sits idle for too long, the battery could die, the tires can develop flat spots and the engine oil may start to deteriorate. Just a short solo drive once a week and a little car care will keep your car running efficiently and safely.”
The nonprofit recommends starting your engine weekly and letting it run for at least five minutes, if not longer. If the vehicle is started in a garage, make sure the garage door is open and there is plenty of ventilation.
Car experts say you should take your vehicle on a short drive once a week to keep it running efficiently. (Photo credit: WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Additionally, drivers should pay attention to the following areas to ensure the vehicle’s longevity:
Prevent battery discharge by turning on your engine weekly and going for a drive — even if it is just around the block a few times. New vehicles have several computers that are always in operation, so if a car sits too long without recharging, the battery can die within a couple of weeks, according to the Car Care Council.
Check your tire pressure and keep tires thoroughly inflated. Maintaining proper tire pressure will improve vehicle performance and gas mileage, and is also important for vehicle safety, experts say. When a car is parked for long periods of time, it can also develop flat spots. Taking a brief drive or even moving the car forward and backward every so often can help avoid that issue.
Be sure to keep a full tank of gas to limit gas-tank condensation. Modern fuel systems help preserve the life of the gas in your tank and also prevent fuel oxidation, according to the Car Care Council. The nonprofit suggests fuel stabilizer for those concerned about gas in their tank going bad, which may help extend the life of fuel.
If a car sits too long, experts say the oil can deteriorate. Drivers should continue to change the oil at proper time intervals, even if they aren’t driving their normal mileage. Check the owner’s manual for the maximum time you should wait between oil changes.
If your car stays idle for too long in lockdown, rust can start to form on the brake rotors — especially if the car is parked outside, according to the Car Care Council. In addition to preserving battery life and other areas, driving your car at least once a week will help prevent rust buildup.
Protect your car paint by removing the grime and sediment that builds up on the exterior, which will help prevent rust. If you don’t have a garage, it’s also advised to park your car in a shaded area to prevent sun damage.
Experts say cleaning the interior is important, as well. Wipe down the dashboard, steering wheel, cup holders, door handles, vents and console with an all-purpose automotive cleaner that will help disinfect the inside areas of your vehicle.
Bonus Tip: Insurance
While many workers have traded in their daily commutes for remote logins and Zoom calls during the coronavirus outbreak, some auto insurance companies are giving refunds and credits to customers that are now driving much less.
State Farm, Chubb Auto Insurance, GEICO, American Family Insurance, Allstate, Liberty Mutual, Farmers Insurance, Progressive Insurance and many more have offered some percentage of refunds or credits during the pandemic, according to MarketWatch, a stock market, financial and business news website.
Regardless of your insurance carrier, one consumer advocate suggests picking up the phone and asking what kind of discount you might be able to receive. Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America, suggests reminding your insurer about the refunds being issued by competitors.
“You’ve got that leverage,” Hunter told MarketWatch. “They want to hold onto their customers, they’ve got to treat them right.”