Are you spending a lot of your time at home during the Coronavirus lock-down? If you haven’t used you vehicle much and don’t plan to any time soon it may be in need of some care.
They say that cars are a big commitment, no matter what you do something will eventually need doing; this is just as true when you’re not using it. When the car doesn’t move components can degrade, seize up and require care to prevent potential problems. In fact there’s no guarantee your car will start perfectly after 2 weeks of inactivity just as much as 2 months.
With a few precautions however you can reduce the chance of problems and be ready to drive again when things start to return to normal.
1. Battery drainage
The battery is usually the first component to suffer from standing still. Car batteries slowly lose their charge over time; this can make it more difficult to start up again when you’re ready. If you are unlucky your car battery can drain completely, but this is more likely if it’s several years old and most people will not experience this over a few weeks or months.
You can keep your battery charged with weekly shopping trips provided the shop is a few miles away.
You can also charge your battery stationary but this needs to be for around 20 minutes or more.
A lot of petrol and diesel cars have a 12v battery used to start the engine. It can take 20 minutes for this battery to regain the energy used to start the vehicle, though this varies from one model to another.
Another option is to buy yourself a battery trickler to provide sustained charge over time.
2. Brakes seizing up
Battery brakes can seize up when they’re constantly engaged for several weeks. Older vehicles are more at risk, although any vehicle can be at risk in very humid conditions . Ideally your handbrake should be disengaged to help prevent problems.
- For autos keep your vehicle in park with the handbrake off.
- For sticks keep your vehicle in reverse with the handbrake off.
This is assuming you can park on a relatively flat surface.
Rocking from back to forth
If you’re not going anywhere an alternative solution is to roll your vehicle back and forth a few feet. You can do this once every 1-2 weeks just to relieve pressure on the brakes; this will also help to reduce flat spots on your tires and charge the battery. If you do start your car make sure to run for around 15-20 minutes or more.
Your engine oil can benefit from starting your engine from time to time. This helps to circulate the oil around the engine and prevent it from thickening. The circulation of the fuel can also help to prevent engine flooding, a common cause of car breakdowns. Signs of flooding include a very fast cranking sound, a noticeable smell or gas or inability to start/cutting out.
DPF (Diesels) getting clogged
Modern diesel cars usually have a diesel particulate filter (DPF), it’s job is to help remove harmful substances from the exhaust. The DPF cleans itself with regular use when the vehicle is constantly running over 2,500 RPM. Lots of short journeys can mean the DPF gets clogged up with dirt. In this case it may be better to avoid the short trips and go for a drive down the freeway when the lockdown ends.
If you’ve ever been away on holiday for a few weeks you might notice on your return that your tires have gone flat on one side or you may notice slight vibrations when you set off.
When the car is stationary in one position the tire can settle, harden and form a flat spot. Flat-spotting can be temporary and semi-permenant depending on the length of time the vehicle is stationary for.
- Temporary flat spotting – usually fixes itself once you start driving again, as the tires warm up they’ll naturally regain their shape again.
- Semi-permanent flat spotting – occurs after a month or more, you should visit a tire shop to have them repaired as they’ll only get worse if left.
Flat spotting becomes more likely if your tire pressure drops, so check it every couple of weeks. It’s a good idea to get in your car and roll it back and forth if nothing else just to keep the tires rotating.
According to continental tires, you can help reduce the chance of flat spotting by increasing your tire pressure by 3 PSI over the manufacturer recommendation.