Maintaining Your Car During the Shutdown

Don’t let leaves gather under the hood of your daily driver. Here are a few simple tips to help you keep your car in good shape until we’re all back on the road.

If you’re like most Americans right now, you’re not using your car much. You’re likely hunkered down at home, working from the couch, and doing as little in-person shopping as possible. And that’s good–we’re supposed to be limiting our contact with other folks during the shutdown, as strange as that might feel.

Maintaining Your Car During The Shutdown

This 2020 Lexus LS 500h is the only car in this mall parking lot. People are staying home, which is good… but we shouldn’t forget our cars during the shutdown.

But what of our cars, trucks, and crossovers? How long can a vehicle safely sit unused? If you’re thinking that cars, like people, need occasional exercise to stay healthy, you’re right. Vehicles aren’t meant to be parked for protracted periods of time, and long-term disuse can lead to serious mechanical issues.

So, what can an owner do to keep their vehicle in good shape during the pandemic? For answers to that question we reached out to Bob Gleich, Lexus College Product Trainer.

Per Bob, here’s what you can do to keep your car healthy while we shelter in place:

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Maintaining Your Car During The Shutdown

Start the car once or twice a week

Let the car warm up into normal operating temperature range. This will help keep the battery charged and the fluids (engine oil, coolant, and transmission oil) in good shape. Occasionally running the car will also keep the emissions systems operating well.  If it is parked inside, be sure to open the garage door while the car is idling. Even better, back the car outside if you are able.

Take a short drive

When you can, take the car for a 5-to-10-minute drive. This will help critical fluids circulate and operate at prescribed temperatures. While driving, apply the brakes firmly several times (when you’re in a safe spot to do so, of course); this will prevent rust from accumulating on the brake pads and rotors.

Check the tire pressure

Make sure they are in the proper pressure range listed on the sticker located in the driver’s door opening. Keeping the tires properly inflated will prevent them from developing an unusual wear pattern or “flat spot” due to lack of use.

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Bob adds this advice for folks planning to leave their cars unused for 30 days or longer:

Maintaining Your Car During The Shutdown

Bob Gleich of Lexus College recommends slightly over-inflating your tires if you plan to let your car sit unused for 30 days or longer.

Change the oil and filter

Used oil that does not circulate through the engine for a while can cause problems down the road.

Wash the vehicle

Clean the car’s exterior to remove all dirt and debris. Remove salt, road grime, and dirt from underneath the vehicle as well.

Clean the cabin

Clean the interior of the car so musty smells do not build up inside.

Fill the tires

Inflate the tires 4 to 5 psi over the recommended pressure. This will help the tires retain their shape. Tire pressure will need to be adjusted when the car is put back into use.

Stay Home, Stay Safe, Maintaining Your Car During The Shutdown

No brakes

Do not set the parking brake if you’re planning to not move your vehicle for a few weeks or longer.

Disconnect the battery

If you’re handy, consider disconnecting the battery. Remember to write down your preset radio stations, as you will need to reprogram them when you reconnect the battery.

Sunday Drive: COVID-19 Edition

Hopefully we’ll be on the road soon enough that we won’t need to spend much time worrying about our cars. But just in case we’re not, a little effort now may save you big headaches down the road.

This editor suggests going for a Sunday drive. If you’re comfortable going outside, take a little drive and get a little sun. You don’t even need to roll down your windows. Consider a route that takes you away from whatever traffic there is in your area, and enjoy a little scenery. A short, carefully planned jaunt may do you and your car some good.

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Maintaining Your Car During The Shutdown