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Cars are designed to be driven, and leaving them unattended for long periods of time will undoubtedly result in many unpleasant side effects. Chief among them: the impact on your finances. The purchasing of the right car is one of the most important investments you’ll ever make, and to keep that car in good shape, protected and on the road is likely to cost a fair bit of money. We’re talking about keeping the tank full, keeping the services up to date, replacing worn parts and making sure that it’s insured. Skipping a few services may save you some money in the moment, but could lead to disastrously expensive repairs or replacements in the future.
So, it’s crucial to keep up with services and maintenance, but how do we do this during the current quarantine? You may have found little to no use for a car under lockdown (aside from the odd essential trip, perhaps), but rest assured; this too shall pass.
A car isn’t just a way of getting from point A to point B. It allows us to earn a living, protects us from the elements upon our journey and, most importantly, it’s always there in the event of an emergency. A car provides opportunity. A car provides accessibility. A car means freedom, security and safety, and therefore it’s vitally important to ensure its well-being.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at how to keep your wheels healthy during this time.
Even when the car is off, many vehicles have electrical items running in the background (such as security devices), and these will eventually drain the battery. To prevent this, simply make sure to start the car every now and again. Starter motors require battery power to start the car, though, so avoid just turning the car on and off too frequently. Ideally, you would want to take it for a spin around the block. Get the engine running for at least 10 – 15 minutes. This gives the battery time to charge, but it also circulates oil and fuel around the engine, keeps your brakes in good shape and prevents your tyres from developing flat spots.
On that note – a car’s brake discs will begin to corrode when left unused for long periods of time, and this could ultimately result in the brakes seizing up entirely, or your handbrake sticking (which would render the car immobile, and it would likely require mechanic attention to rectify). For this reason, always try your brakes gently when setting off for the first time after long periods of inactivity. If your brakes make any persistent grinding or crunching noises, then it’s likely that they’ve built up some corrosion and warped.
But, back to the battery!
Of course, if the car is routinely left unused, you could always disconnect the battery entirely. This will disable your alarm, however, which isn’t ideal. If you happen to have a little extra cash lying around, and you’re able to safely run an extension cord, then it’s not a bad idea to invest in a trickle-charger (battery conditioner), which will automatically keep the battery in tip-top shape.
And lastly, if your car is stored in a garage (and you’re really not keen on venturing out into the world), always make sure to open the garage door before leaving it running, and never leave a running vehicle unattended.
The tyres are one of the most important – and often one of the most neglected – parts of the car, and they’re not immune to the detrimental effects of inactivity, either. Leave a vehicle unused for long enough and the tyres could not only deflate, but could also lead to flat spots and the loss of their rounded shape.
One solution to prevent this from occurring (if the vehicle is going to be left unattended to for months at a time), is to slightly overinflate them before storage. But, of course, this is by no means fool-proof, and routinely inspecting, maintaining and properly inflating your tyres is by far the better solution.
We’ve written a little bit in the past about what happens when a vehicle’s tyres fail while driving, and the results are horrifying. You could lose control of your vehicle, flip your car over or, at the very least, become stranded in the middle of nowhere.
With the right maintenance, however, these nightmarish scenarios could be avoided. So, we put together a helpful guide on tyre maintenance (and knowing when to replace them), which you can find at the link below.
Keeping your car clean is an important parts of vehicle maintenance in general, and lockdown provides a good opportunity to do some detailed cleaning, inside and out.
If you’re not planning on driving it for a while afterwards, however, then it’s a good idea to invest in a good quality, breathable cover for the vehicle. Always make sure that the vehicle is both clean and dry before covering it, however, as leaving any sort of cover on a wet car would only trap the moisture in, and this does a lot more harm than good.
Storing a car away for months on end is very different to leaving it in your driveway for a week or two. If you’re not planning on using the car for a very long while, always make sure to leave it parked somewhere safe. A private garage is the best option, even at the best of times. If this isn’t an option, always opt for a parking spot that is sheltered from the elements, shaded from the sun and preferably well-lit.
If you have no other option than street parking, then a decent cover, as mentioned above, is pretty much a necessity. If you’re parked under a tree, for instance, this will protect your paintwork from tree sap and the local bird population, as well as adverse weather conditions.
If you’re parked on level ground, leave the car in gear, or Park if it’s an automatic (this helps prevent any movement) instead of using the handbrake (as this could stretch the handbrake cable or cause it to stick), and place chocks behind the wheels to further prevent any possible rolling. If you’re parked on a very public road or on a slope, however, then it goes without saying that you should not use this method.
A few other things to keep in mind, regarding long-term storage:
Place some plastic wrap under the wiper blades, to prevent the rubber from sticking to the windshield. Top up your fuel tank. This may sound counterintuitive, but a full tank leaves less room for condensation, which leads to rust forming. And lastly, top up other fluids, such as coolant, brake fluid or window wash, to reduce the chances of an unnecessary breakdown, and ensure that your vehicle is ready to drive once normality finally returns.
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