While you’re working from home and adhering to Michigan’s stay-at-home order, you may find yourself driving less – or not at all. Nevertheless, your car is designed to be driven and leaving it parked for too long could cause a myriad of problems.
A 20-minute drive every week or 2 can prevent the majority of issues, but you may need regular maintenance or repair during the pandemic. Vehicle service and repair are “necessary services” and exempt from the restrictions of Executive Order 2020-21 in Michigan. As such, you should be able to take care of your vehicle with little to no problems. That being said, if you’re not driving regularly and the maintenance and/or repair is not urgent, you may be able to put it off until you feel more comfortable going out.
No matter what you’re facing, we have some tips and tricks for you. Check-in every Tuesday for our “Tips Tuesday” series and remember to drive safely during this unprecedented time.
Tip #1: Keep an Eye on Your Tires, Brakes, and Battery
When your car is parked for too long, parts of your tires can absorb too much weight and be partially flattened. This is called “flat-spotting,” and it occurs most frequently when it’s cold and/or tires are underinflated. To avoid flat-spotting, move your car every once in a while and be sure to keep your tires filled to manufacturer recommendations (found on the doorsill of your driver’s door).
Similarly, your brakes can rust over time, especially if your parking brake is on. To prevent your brake pads binding to your rotors, leave the parking brake off while you’re parked for long periods of time. If you’re parked on a hill, leave the parking brake on – just remember to drive around the block once a week!
Car batteries are notorious for dying over time. Again, driving regularly can give your battery extra juice, but if you’re not driving for a while, you can disconnect the battery or plug your vehicle into a battery tender.
Tip #2: Beware of Pests and Contaminants
Your parked car can appear as a safe, warm habitat for mice, rats, and other pests. Check underneath the hood for evidence of chewed wires or belt and look for critters in your engine compartment and around all 4 tires and wheel wells.
If you can, park under a cover to avoid bird droppings, tree sap, and water spots from rain and/or sprinklers. You can also use a weatherproof car cover. While contaminants are usually no big deal, they can damage your paint over time. Although car washes are closed in most places, you can always wash your car yourself or spot clean with a soft cloth.
Tip #3: Keep Your Fluids Moving
Without regular use, your car’s fluids and the systems that distribute them could cause problems. Make sure you drive for at least 20 minutes every 2 weeks to prevent fuel separation, water vapor accumulation, and brittle gaskets and hoses.
Tip #4: It’s Okay to Postpone Scheduled Maintenance
If you’re not driving much or you need a minor fix, you should be able to wait until the pandemic passes to go to your service department or repair shop. When in doubt, call your service associate and ask.
Tip #5: Always Call Ahead
Before you head out, call your service ship or dealership. Some places have cut their hours due to the pandemic, and others may be operating on an appointment-only basis. In any case, calling ahead can minimize your time out and about and even give you an idea of your wait time.
Tip #6: Should You Stay, or Should You Go?
Sometimes, service doesn’t take long, so you may want to wait for your car to be ready. Find out about the waiting area beforehand and make sure you keep your distance from employees and other customers. You may want to bring disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer or even go for a walk while your car is being worked on.
Another option is to have someone from your household pick you up or rent a car. If you are in a rental car, be sure to sterilize commonly touched services.
Tip #7: Clean Your Car Upon Pickup
Many service people are being extra careful about germs during the pandemic, but for your safety and peace of mind you should still wipe down common touchpoints inside your vehicle.
Keep checking in for a full list of tips on sanitizing your vehicle and reducing disease transmission while driving.
Driving may not be your biggest worry if you’re struggling to make your car payment. Tune into our Tips Tuesday series next week to learn about car payment relief during coronavirus.