By Dennis McGowan, HONK Technologies
With almost everyone following shelter-in-place orders during the pandemic, it’s likely you haven’t driven your car very much. And while auto maintenance probably isn’t anywhere near the top of your list of big concerns right now, it’s still important to make sure your vehicle remains in good health so it’ll be ready to drive and reliable while you’re on the road. Getting stuck and needing roadside assistance is never something someone wants to experience, and that goes double while COVID-19 remains a threat.
Here are a few tips to make sure you’re covering the basics while on lockdown to ensure your automobile remains healthy.
Check your fluids
Fluid levels are your car’s vital signs, and keeping them at the right levels can prevent damage that could cost you thousands of dollars. So, take the time to flip through your manual and read up on how to check the oil, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and washer fluid. It will let you know what the signs of a problem look like, so you can get it taken care of before it blows up into something serious.
Fill your gas tank
It’s been decades since gas was this cheap, so there’s never been a more affordable time to keep your tank full. A full tank is less likely to bring any sediment lying on the tank’s bottom into the engine, where it can clog. Also, while you’re at the gas station, it’s not a bad idea to pick up a bottle of additive to help ensure your lines and motor stay clear, especially if you don’t think you’ll be using it for a while.
The importance of battery maintenance
Issues with vehicle batteries are actually the primary reason most people will need to call for roadside assistance, and especially if your vehicle is sitting idle, you’ll want to take measures to prevent battery drain so it will start when you finally are ready to drive somewhere.
Start by unplugging any chargers you have in the cigarette lighter or, if you have a newer automobile, the USB port. If you’ve got an older vehicle, you may be able to disconnect the battery altogether (refer to your manual), but with a newer car, doing so might affect the calibration of computers, sensors and other systems. Here, think about investing in a trickle-type battery charger, which will continually charge the battery at roughly its rate of discharge. They cost about $100. Make sure to read the manual, because you can overcharge your battery over extended periods of time if you don’t pay attention.
Check your tires
When the seasons change, it’s time to check your tire pressure, so make sure you’ve got the right PSI in each tire. And, while you’re at it, check your treads by sticking a penny in them. If you can see Lincoln’s head, it’s probably time to change them.
Finally, you don’t want your tires sitting for weeks in a puddle. Make sure they’re resting on dry, flat ground.
Consider covering your car
If you know your car won’t see any use for a while, keep it out of the elements. If you’ve got a garage, keep it there. If it must remain outside, protect it with a car cover if you can, which will shield the paint from the elements.
In sum, we’re all putting fewer miles on our cars, which is great for less wear and tear, but leaving them unused for a long period of time can also cause problems. By conducting some basic maintenance during this time, you can ensure that once the lockdown orders are lifted, your car will be able to take you wherever you want to go and bring you safely home without incident.
Dennis McGowan is a WreckMaster certified second-generation tow operator with more than 15 years hands-on industry experience. He currently serves as Manager, Towing & Roadside Operations at HONK Technologies, a next-generation roadside assistance service.