5 Ways Our Cars Are Like Us During COVID-19
Turns Out, Your Ride Could Be Going Through Some Stuff Too
Are our cars really just four-wheeled versions of ourselves?
In normal times, it's a cute enough concept to consider. But during the COVID-19 shutdown, it takes on a whole other level of truth.
Just like my own earthly chassis, the trusty set of wheels that used to ferry me on my two-hour daily commute now sits mostly idle. And while it’s easy to deprioritize physical fitness amid a stay-at-home order, experts say it can be equally bad to turn off the side of our brain that thinks about car maintenance – whichever side that is.
Here are five ways that we and our four-wheeled friends are suffering the same during quarantine – and what we should do about it.
Their Batteries Might Need Charging
Some of us wake up every morning of quarantine with a voice in our head telling us to take a few laps around the block to stay energized. Most of us ignore this voice and have coffee instead.
But when it comes to keeping our car’s battery healthy, this is actually good advice. In fact, experts say it’s best to exercise your ride at least 15 minutes every two weeks or so. This will help maintain the battery's charge and ensure the engine and other parts are running smoothly. If not, the inactivity could cause your battery to go dead – a particular concern on newer models with tons of electronic features, says Jill Trotta, VP of the Auto Team at RepairPal.
“Getting the engine up to operating temperature and taking a short drive will keep all the components properly lubricated,” Trotta tells Fair.
It also doesn’t hurt to blast some music and bring the gum from your middle console inside so it doesn’t turn into chewable cement. But that’s just my advice.
They Get Flat Spots
Weird indents aren’t just what virtual backgrounds do to your hair during Zoom meetings. They can also happen to your car’s tires if it sits in one spot for too long, says Melanie Musson, an auto insurance and vehicle expert at AutoInsurance.org.
“Tires can take a beating from supporting the car in the same position for an extended period of time,” Musson says.
To avoid this, Musson says to make sure your tires are inflated to the suggested tire pressure and to take your car out for semi-regular spins. But you were already planning to do that for the battery thing, weren’t you? Also, take out the gum. I’m serious. That stuff will go bad, and that’s just so, so wasteful.
They Need to Be Washed
While most of us might feel a true sense of joy by the prospect of leaving car washes off our bi-weekly to-do lists, keeping your car clean and free of falling sky junk (I’m looking to you, birds) is actually one of the most important steps to keeping it healthy. Water stains or debris left on the car can work their way into your paint job and lead to legit damage.
You can avoid this with the occasional at-home wash. After washing your car, you can also follow the advice of Richard Reina, Product Training Director at CARiD.com, who suggests garaging your vehicle if you’re fancy/able to.
For those of us without garages, he recommends considering a car cover to keep pollen, bird droppings, and the occasional errant tree branch from inflicting damage.
After a While, Their Fuel Turns to Junk
If you’re like me, you probably thought that not driving your car would mean you could leave your car’s gas tank in a perpetual state of emptiness and save a few dollars. And while this would be convenient for your wallet, it doesn’t take into account the integrity of the gas left sitting in the tank.
“Modern gasolines will start to go bad in a few months,” Reina said, adding that the situation can affect your car’s performance.
To avoid this, Reina recommends topping off with fresh fuel or adding a fuel stabilizer additive to keep your car – and its fuel supply – healthy and ready for action.
What you do with those month-old Pop Tarts you bought in bulk back in March is up to you.
Their Health Starts on the Inside
Just because you won’t be sitting in your car much any time soon doesn’t mean you should let it get dusty or grimy. In fact, keeping the interior of your car clean is just as important as the exterior, says Lauren Fix, Founder of The Car Coach.
“Wiping down the dashboard, steering wheel, cup holders, door handles, vents and console with a quality, all-purpose automotive cleaner will help disinfect the interior areas of your vehicle,” Fix says.
Not only will this help keep you and your family safe when you do take your car out for the occasional spin or grocery run, but it will give you something to do on a Saturday. Because who doesn’t need that at this point?
Got any other ways that you’re treating your cars like yourself during the shutdown? Feel free to post them on Instagram with a #faircarmaintenance hashtag and we’ll be sure to share them!