When the pandemic hit in March and we were told to stay at home, vehicle maintenance didn’t top anyone’s list of concerns. But months later, Chicagoland residents are adapting to our new normal, heading back to school and returning to the office. For many, this means they’re using their vehicles consistently again … for the first time in months.
Whether you’re working from home or back on the road daily, here’s a checklist to help make sure your vehicle stays healthy.
• Battery. If your car was idle during stay-at-home orders, you may have noticed your battery has discharged. Before driving for the first time, start your vehicle and let the battery charge for at least 10-15 minutes. Then, make it a point to drive your vehicle a minimum of 20 minutes per week (even if it’s just around the block a few times!), which will help maintain the battery.
• Fluids. Be sure to check your car’s fluids regularly. When vehicles don’t move for a long period of time, the oil can settle and the fuel can separate, creating costly engine problems. Likewise, transmission and brake fluid should be checked by certified mechanics to increase the life of your vehicle.
• Gasoline. Keep your gas tank full! When your tank is low, it can collect condensation, which dilutes the gasoline. Further, a full tank also helps stop gas fumes from building up, which can create a hazard for drivers. Bonus: with gas prices lower than usual, a full tank is more affordable than it was last year.
• Tires. Tires lose air pressure when your car isn’t moving. Check your tires regularly for lumps, flat spots and general deformation. Additionally, be sure to check your vehicle’s manual for recommended tire pressure. Short, periodic drives can help prevent flat spots.
• Wash. Washing your car regularly not only keeps your vehicle looking sharp, but also helps extend the life of your paint. Further, dust and debris can build up over time, taking a toll on your vehicle’s finish if left unchecked. While the weather is still nice and we’re spending more time at home, have some fun at home by breaking out the hose and mild dish soap and washing it yourself.
• Unwanted pests. Whether rodents or insects, unwanted pests can make your car their home if they recognize it’s not going anywhere. Consider putting rodent repellent in your garage and regularly check for nests in your engine, undercarriage and in wheel wells.
• Tune Up. If your vehicle has been idle for an extended period of time — or it’s been a while since it was serviced — consider a professional evaluation by a certified vehicle technician from a local dealership. A trained eye can spot potential areas of concern before they grow into problems on the road.
No one can predict what the months ahead will bring and whether our vehicles will be out on the road or under renewed stay-at-home orders. But taking these steps now can help give you peace of mind and extend the longevity of your vehicle … no matter how often you’re on the road.
• Mark Benakovich is the service director of Fair Oaks Ford Lincoln in Naperville.