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If You Can’t Drive Your Car, Clean It

Just because your car is parked doesn't mean it can't suffer. These tips will ensure your vehicle is in peak condition when you get back behind the wheel.

During this time of staying at home, social distancing and minimizing travel, we’re all looking for things to fill our days and occupy our minds. One thing you can do is take good care of your car. It’s not getting much use these days, and ignoring it – especially if it’s sitting outside – can lead to problems.

Protect Your Car’s Paint

The Northeast has its share of acid rain, so washing your car to preserve the paint finish is time well-spent. Bird droppings contain acid as well, which can damage your paint. If your car has been victimized by our feathered friends, you need to work quickly.

I’ve tried many different solutions – including soda-water, baking soda, mayonnaise and WD-40 – but the first step should be to use lots of water and a little car soap.

A waterless car wash can be used, depending on how much goop you are cleaning. If that’s not effective, try a soft cloth soaked in baking soda, a touch of soap and water and allow it to sit on the affected area until it’s broken down.

Mayonnaise also works well; put a good amount over the bird poo and let it sit for 30 minutes. Rinse it off with fresh water. Once you’ve removed the mess, touch up the area with spray detail wax to maintain the paint finish.

Washing your car is one thing, getting it germ-free is another. Learn how to properly sanitize your car.

Watch for Critters

Even if your car is housed in the garage, rodents can be a problem. Mice, moles and other critters will often build nests in the engine compartments. Signs of this include leaves, pieces of fabric and insulation, or even tell-tale droppings.

If you suspect a four-legged tenant in your engine, start with a thorough washing and vacuuming. There are chemical deterrents you can use; some smell like spearmint and some like a natural predator. You may have luck putting clothes dryer sheets in the car and under the hood.

But the key is prevention: If the car is in a garage, seal any holes and remove food sources, such as birdseed, cat and dog food. Even water that can attract rodents.

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Keep the Filters Clear

The natural elements can clog your car’s filters, too. Spring is always a good time to check your engine and cabin air filters due to an increase in pollen. Filters can be purchased online (NAPA or other auto parts retailers) and are easily replaced. You’ll save yourself up to $50 if you do it yourself. When you finally get to turn on your air conditioning this year, you’ll be glad you changed the filter. If clogged or dirty, you’ll may notice a funny smell and reduced performance.

Check Your Lights

Now’s a good time to check your lighting. Driving less especially as the days are getting longer you may not notice a bulb that is out. You can order bulbs online and replace them yourself, sometimes without tools. Always replace headlight bulbs in pairs. Typically these bulbs last a certain number of hours so if one burns out, the second bulb will likely follow.

Keep Up With Maintenance

If you’re not driving your vehicle, you should consider adding fuel stabilizer to the gas tank. Gasoline will last a month or more without getting stale, but the stabilizer will help keep fuel fresh.

Also, be sure to check your tire pressure. Tires lose air while sitting still, so use a tire pressure gauge at least once a month. If your vehicle is going to be parked for a while without use, inflate the tires to the maximum pressure indicated on the sidewall (but be careful never to over-inflate). Check for cuts, bruises or cracking that can cause a loss of tire pressure.

Check vital fluid levels and top off as needed. Your owner’s manual – probably the least-read book in the world – will have instructions on how to check and refill fluids. After the hood is closed, examine your wipers. Sitting in the elements can cause cracking, so look for any signs of wear and tear on the blades. If they skip or “chatter” across your windshield, it’s a good time to replace them.

Finally, make a note of your vehicle’s registration and state inspection expiration dates. While allowances may be made for delays during this “social distancing” period, you’ll want to stay on top of these so you can have them taken care of it as soon as it’s possible.

All of these basic maintenance issues can be taken care of with parts ordered online and with a little time. If you keep your car in good shape while it’s getting limited use, it will be ready to go when we’re all able to hit the roads again.

Have any more automotive questions? Email John Paul and get a direct response from the Car Doctor himself.

Comments
  • Jamet P.

    Thank you, AAA, for these very helpful tips! I wouldn’t know to do some of these things if it weren’t for you. Thanks, again!

    • Maggie M.

      Hi Jamet,
      Thank you for your kind words, we appreciate our member feedback. If you like our article please share, your friends and family may feel the same! MM

  • Jane H.

    One thing missing from cars is the hood ornament. It was so useful finding the end of your car when parking. I really miss that feature.

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