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Car in the garage during the pandemic? You still need to care for it

Click to play video 'Tests to perform on your vehicle that is not being used regularly' Tests to perform on your vehicle that is not being used regularly
Tests to perform on your vehicle that is not being used regularly

Since the coronavirus pandemic effectively shutdown most of the country in mid-March, many Canadians have been home from work or school — meaning many cars have been used less.

Unfortunately, sitting still for prolonged periods of time can be detrimental to your vehicle.

“All vehicles are meant to be driven,” said Andrew Harkness, head of aftersales at Nissan Canada. “If they’re not being driven, over time they might not work properly when it is time to be driving more often.”

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To avoid problems, Harkness recommends operating the vehicle “every few days or once a week.”

However, this may not be possible as the pandemic goes on.

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If you’re in a position where your car will remain sheltered in place for a long period of time, there are some basic tests you can perform to avoid any serious problems.

Engine and oil

When you’re not driving regularly, the oil in your car can deteriorate due to fluctuations in temperature — especially in an unpredictable Canadian spring.

First, pop the hood and check engine fluid levels. “By this, we mean engine oil, brake fluid and transmission fluid,” Harkness said.

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COVID-19 vaccine questions for back to school

If your car sits for too long, these fluids can “separate” and oil can “settle” — a situation that can cause significant engine problems in the future.

If you haven’t started your car in a while but need to take it somewhere, consider changing the oil before starting it for the first time.

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To avoid this, idle your vehicle for a couple of minutes and then drive it for 10 to 20 minutes.

Tires

Tires lose air over time, and sitting in one spot for as few as 30 days can be harmful.

“When a vehicle sits for long periods of time, flat spots develop in the tires,” Harkness said.

Inside the driver door of every vehicle, there’s a sticker with recommended tire pressures. Compare your tire pressure to these recommendations.

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If your tires are comparatively low, “pump up the tires to the recommended pressure,” Harkness said.

To avoid flat spots, move your car slightly forward or slightly back every few weeks.

“Consider rolling the vehicle slightly fore or aft if you can to resituate its feet,” Steven Greenspan, instructor and education manager at Universal Technical Institute, told motortrend.com.

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Your tires are more likely to deteriorate if they’re already older.

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Check for cracked rubber, flaking, bulging or discoloration caused by age, and if you’re storing it outside, consider covering them to protect them from the sun.

When you’re ready to drive again, carefully inspect all these aspects of your tires before hitting the road.

Battery

According to Harkness, car batteries can “discharge” over time if they’re not in use.

“To prevent a dead battery, we recommend taking your vehicle out for a drive to charge the battery and keep all the fluids circulating,” he said.

“Going out for a drive also combats rust that can build on brake rotors, essentially cleaning off the brakes’ surface.”

Every few weeks…

Harkness recommends taking the vehicle for a spin, even if you have nowhere to go.

“We recommend idling the vehicle for just a couple of minutes, to circulate all fluids, then drive it for 10 to 20 minutes until the engine and transmission come to full operating temperature,” he said.

“Make sure to apply the brakes several times during the drive to clean any surface rust off the brake rotors.”

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He also recommends washing your car, even if no one is going to see it.

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“Over time, the elements and environmental contaminants can damage your car’s paint,” Harkness said.

“It’s a good idea to give it a wash every week or when you notice it’s getting dirty.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca