With shelter-in-place restrictions imposed in most every state, millions of cars are sitting motionless in garages and driveways across the country. While staying home is the best way to stay safe these days, it might not be the best thing for your car.
David Bennett, manager for repair systems at AAA, says cars won’t need any major maintenance during a lockdown, but there are several important steps drivers can take now to ensure their vehicles don’t deteriorate due to non-use.
Keep the Battery Charged
Car batteries charge automatically when you run the car. But when you’re not using your car for weeks at a time, the battery can die. Bennett recommends hooking up a battery tender to stabilize the battery and maintain an equal state of charge so the car won’t need to be jump started when normal life resumes. You could also start it periodically and let it run for a bit if you don’t have a grocery run to do.
Keep Your Vehicle Clean
A car that is sitting idle for weeks at a time can become a magnet for all kinds of creatures. If possible, keep your car parked inside a garage. If this is not an option, make sure your car is clean from all snacks, beverages, food wrappers and debris so it doesn’t attract bugs or animals. If you can, vacuum your carpets as well. These steps will help prevent mildew and unpleasant odors from growing inside your vehicle.
If you live in a rural area where many small animals abound, like chipmunks and mice, you may want to seal any inlets, such as the tailpipe, with a small piece of steel wool. Otherwise, some creatures may decide to make your car their new home while it’s sitting idle in your driveway.
Take Your Car for a Spin
If possible, Bennett says, drivers should try to take their car for a 20-minute drive at least once a week. Driving is a solitary activity that can help stave off cabin fever, and it’s also good for your car to get some use. Driving will help keep the battery charged, prevent the tires from developing bald spots and keep the brake discs from growing rust.
Your car may not be taking you to work or much of anywhere right now, but these small steps will help keep it in excellent condition so it’s ready to go when the lockdown is over and normal life resumes.
Gas is Cheap, Fill Up, and Be Ready to GO
One silver lining in the currently flailing economy is the steady decline in crude oil prices as travel, manufacturing and commerce come to a standstill, causing demand for gas to plunge.
Since the pandemic’s impact was first felt on American shores in mid-February, the national average price of gas dropped 45.5 cents per gallon, and is now approximately 72.7 cents less per gallon than it was a year ago.
On Monday, March 30, gas prices plunged more. AAA identified the national average as $2 a gallon, with some stations charging less than a dollar per gallon. Experts predict prices will fall even further before the pandemic ends, perhaps as low as $1.50 a gallon, which will break the record lows of early 2016 and late 2008.
But Americans aren’t rushing anywhere. With the nationwide mandate for social distancing now extended until the end of April, gas stations are mostly empty despite the bargain prices at the pumps. Take advantage of the discount and fill up your tank, then wash your hands. Stay well.
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