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9 Tips for Caring for Your COVID Idled Car

Chris Kaiser

Staying home and social distancing may be good for your health and that of your community, but it’s not so great for your car. Here’s some ways you can take care of your car in quarantine.

Cars left parked in driveways
Cars left parked in driveways

So, you’re doing your best to avoid the quarantine fifteen (pounds that is) by eating right, exercising daily, and getting proper sleep. Good on you. But what are you doing for your car that’s been sitting forlornly in your garage these past months? Turns out, ignoring your car in quarantine is about as bad as ordering pizza every night and binge watching all the Star Wars movies on Disney+, in order, over and over…(not that I would know).

Here’s what you can do to keep your vehicle in good working order while sitting idle.

Take a Drive

Driving your car at least 30 minutes a week will help the battery maintain a strong charge. With all the electrical and computer equipment in modern cars, batteries can be drained in a little as a week’s time, especially high-end luxury cars like Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. If your vehicle is a little on the older side, you can probably stretch this time to two weeks so long as you have kept up with replacing the battery on time.

Checking battery with a multimeter
Checking battery with a multimeter

Keep the Flow Going

Driving also makes sure all the other fluids in your car get moving and keep your parts properly lubricated. Transmission and brake fluid as well as engine oil all need a periodic shake-up. Your brakes will thank you as well, regular application will help keep rust at bay.

Speaking of Brakes

Don’t leave your parking brake on. Like the rest of your brakes, the parking brake can be prone to rust, which means it can rust in place. Leaving your automatic in park should be sufficient on a flat surface. You can leave your manual car in first or reverse and use parking chocks to keep it from moving.

Vehicle utilizing a parking chock
Vehicle utilizing a parking chock

Tire Check

Another benefit of moving your car periodically is preserving your tires. Resting for long periods on the same spot can flatten and deform tires. If you know you won’t be moving your car for a while, you should make sure to fill your tires to at least the recommended psi. You can add an additional 5-10 psi to help guard against deformation but remember to let that extra air back out before driving.

Check the Rest, Too

It’s not just tires that can have trouble when not in regular use. Check your wipers for cracks and tears. You should also check your engine oil level, the state of your air filters, and the condition of rubber and plastic parts (especially weather proofing if you’re parking the vehicle outside).

Checking vehicle fluids for needed maintenance
Checking vehicle fluids for needed maintenance

Picking Your Parking Spot

If you can, park your vehicle in a garage. This obviously helps protect against the elements as well as rodents who might see your car as a nice place to build a nest (mouse traps or rodent repellent are good ideas for extra protection in your garage). If a garage isn’t available, make sure to avoid parking on grass which can expose the undercarriage to excess moisture and increase the likelihood of rust. Also avoid parking under any trees. Sap, seeds, and broken branches all pose a hazard to your vehicle’s exterior.

Parking vehicle at home in the garage
Parking vehicle at home in the garage

Keep Your Regular Maintenance Schedule

Just because you’re not driving it as much as usual doesn’t mean you can ignore regular maintenance. Oil does degrade over time, so just because you have met your max mileage threshold for doesn’t mean it won’t need replacing. The same goes for the rest of your car. Just sitting can actually be harder on many of your vehicle’s components than your daily commute.

Top Off the Tank

Though it’s less of a risk with modern fuel tanks, having a less than half full gas tank can lead to condensation. It’s best to top off your tank if you know you’ll be keeping your car in storage. You can also add a fuel stabilizer to your tank, which can increase the viability of your fuel up to two years.

Filling the tank at the gas pumps
Filling the tank at the gas pumps

When You Do Drive, Go Easy

Once you’re ready to actually get your vehicle back on the road, go easy. Don’t slam on the accelerator or mash the brakes. Be gentle and gradual, allow the vehicle to warm up and fluids to circulate properly.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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