BLOOMFIELD, NJ-- As New Jerseyans grapple with the COVID-19 crisis and take steps to keep our families and communities safe, many elements of our everyday routines have been altered significantly. As advised by the Governor, nonessential travel is discouraged, and as a result many of our cars and trucks may sit idle for weeks at a time. From Universal Technical Institute in Bloomfield, the state’s leading automotive and diesel technician educator, here are some easy to follow tips you can use to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape during these trying times.
If your car or truck is sitting unused for an extended period of time, make sure you fill up the tank beforehand. A partially full tank can cause condensation to form in the empty space. These water droplets can lead to corrosion in your gas tank or engine, an expensive problem to fix. This is particularly true if your vehicle uses diesel, which unlike gas has no vapor pressure to displace air so condensation is more likely, or if you use ethanol fuels like E85, which degrade faster than gas or diesel. For gasoline engines, a fuel stabilizer is also a great idea to prolong fuel quality.
When your car or truck spends a lot of time sitting, there is a tendency for your brake rotors to build up rust. It is recommended to take your vehicle for a short 5- to 10-minute drive, with normal braking events to keep your critical brake components from rusting or seizing, resulting in costly, unnecessary premature brake repairs.
During this crisis, many of us will not be hitting the recommended mileage for an oil change in the typical 6-month period. You should still change your oil after six months regardless of mileage, as oil will deteriorate over time when your vehicle is not in use.
Even if you have nowhere in particular to go, we recommend taking your car or truck for a short 5- to 10-minute drive every couple of weeks to avoid a dead battery. Today’s high-tech vehicles often use multiple computers to monitor their systems, which absorb energy from the battery. If your car is sitting idle for an extended period, the battery is not able to recharge and these computers may drain it completely. To avoid damaging battery discharge you can also attach a battery tender or trickle charger to your vehicle when it is not in use.
Check your car’s tire pressure frequently that it is within the manufacturer’s recommended levels. Tires naturally lose air over time, and no one wants to deal with a deflated tire when they need to make an essential trip to the grocery store. Tires filled with nitrogen leak less than those filled with oxygen, but both should be checked regularly.
Anything in your engine that is made of rubber, like engine belts, will deteriorate over time. Typically, belts will last 50,000 miles or more if they are in good condition, so be mindful of when you last replaced them. Make sure any fluids, from brake to steering to windshield washer fluid, are filled up. Lastly, we recommend changing your cabin air filter. When you start up your vehicle after it sits idle for some time there will be a good deal of dust in the cabin, so you will want your filter working at peak efficiency.
These simple and inexpensive precautions will keep your car or truck running smoothly while it sits in the driveway or at the curb and prevent more costly issues down the line.
Pete Fallone is the Education Director at Universal Technical Institute-Bloomfield, and an ASE master automotive technician.