While the world stays locked up due to COVID-19, let's not forget our responsibilities towards our vehicles, just like any other machine, they need to be maintained. Maintaining our vehicles has a long list of advantages that are very underrated including the reliability of the vehicle in the longer run, better resale values, extended vehicle life, and so on. This doesn't apply only for the lockdown period but let’s keep them in practice even after the lockdown. Here are things that every motorist should know and do for the better maintenance of their vehicle, and no, you don’t need any tools or training, just pure enthusiasm and some dirt on your hands will do the job.
- Avoid the flat spot :
All our vehicles, especially cars, have been sitting idle for almost two months now, just like how standing for a long time leads to your footwear deteriorating, when your car is let to stand idle for such long times, it’s tires experience what we call as the ‘flat spot’. This is the permanent flattening of the tire in a particular spot on which the vehicle was resting. Because of the flat spot you might experience heavy vibrations and an unstable drive. To avoid this it is recommended to take the vehicle out for small rides at intervals of at least once in a couple of weeks, however, when circumstances like these that are beyond our control arise, just moving the car front and back for a few minutes in the parking lot should also do the job.
2. Good parking practices :
The best way to prevent damages to the car is to park it in a safe place, but a lot of us don’t realize what is good parking. Avoid parking on slopes which may result in the wear and tear of a lot of components due to creep.
3. Disconnect the battery :
Always disconnect the battery terminals from their connections if you are anticipating a long break from driving your vehicle. Your ECU, clock, and other components keep discharging your battery even though you removed the keys. Always carefully remove the battery connections and put the insulation caps back on the terminals to prevent grounding or short-circuiting of your vehicle. If possible, cover the open wire ends and the terminal hubs to which the wires are connected with good quality insulation tape to prevent the oxidation and formation of deposits on the terminal hubs of the wires.
4. Cover the vehicle correctly :
Keeping your vehicle uncovered is better than an improper vehicle cover, always consider genuine covers offered by the OEMs or your car manufacturers. Make sure the cover you use doesn’t let water stay on the vehicle or causes dampness around it. Also, low-quality covers might affect the glossy layer of the vehicle body by abrading it in windy conditions.
5. Avoid the hand brake :
Heard about the fuel prices falling to $0 because the oil companies want to save their refineries? That is very similar to what might happen in your car’s fuel line if you keep it parked without running the engine for a long time. The fuel in our vehicles is, at its roots, a hydrocarbon that starts to undergo decomposition over time to form other compounds.
Too much chemistry to understand? Here is a simpler way to look at this, ever returned home from a long family vacation or trip and heard your mom complaining from the kitchen about the oil going bad? This is exactly what happens with the fuel in your car as well. In 30 to 60 days, the fuel will become a semi-solid gel-like substance that will choke your fuel line, kill your injectors and block your fuel pump, to talk simply, that’s a lot of money to the mechanic.
6. Don't go on a long trip right away!
Here’s one more reason to postpone your long trip after the lockdown, if you are starting the vehicle after a very long time always perform some maintenance checks, after all this might be our only chance to feel like an airplane pilot. Here are some quick checks to be done -
a. Check engine oil – at least 30 minutes after you stop the engine, on a leveled surface, just pop up your hood and you’ll see a yellow knob. Unscrew it properly as instructed in your owner’s manual or on the knob itself, and pull it out. Clean the engine oil on it with a good clean piece of cloth that is free of any dust or dirt and dip it right back in, wait for a few seconds and pull it out, look at the bottom of the stick for the oil indication holes, make sure your oil level is neither beyond the full mark nor below the empty mark and is in good condition.
b. Check coolant level – just near the hood lock you will see a metallic pressure cap (radiator cap) on your radiator with warnings on it, beside that you will find another cap to a white plastic reservoir, on the reservoir check your coolant levels and make sure it is between the max and min markings, if not pour in some water if there is concentrate already present, any dirt and slurry free water should be fine. If you don’t know what the metallic cap is for, stay away from it and if you know about it you will obviously choose to stay away from it.
If you don’t find any other cap other than the metallic radiator cap, then wait for at least 30 minutes after you have stopped the engine and then press and rotate the cap twice in anticlockwise direction to open it and follow the same procedure.
c. Check the brake fluid – it’s the same way as that of the engine coolant but you will find this reservoir towards your windshield. Just don’t pour water in this case. Use your manufacturer suggested grade brake fluid.
d. Check the brake shoes or disc pads – This can be bit of a difficult task to open and check the assembly for worn out disc pads or brake shoes, but it always comes handy when most OEMs provide a metal indicator that makes a screeching noise when we brake with worn out shoes or pads, if you can hear such a noise when you are braking then it might not be safe to drive the vehicle, and always consider replacing your brake shoes yourself if you can or take the help of your mechanic.
e. Use recommended tire pressure - This might sound very basic, but most of us end up with worn out tires or with reduced tire life because of such small negligence. Here is a small and an easy trick you can show off next time you find a worn out tire and tell the cause of the wear out pattern.
If you’ve done these steps, you sure will have a happy journey!