Why COVID-19 shutdowns may be bad for your car
When was the last time you paid any serious attention to the traffic report?
For most of us, it’s been weeks, as we have shifted to working from home, or dealing with job layoffs related to the COVID-19 shutdown. And if you haven’t been commuting to work, chances are good that your vehicle hasn’t been getting much, or any, use during this time.
Not driving has its financial advantages, since you aren’t gassing or charging the car up as often, and may even save money on auto insurance premiums.
On the flipside, a vehicle that sits idle for too long could end up racking up hefty repair bills.
Think about it this way: Vehicles are a lot like the muscles in our body, in that if we don’t use them, they’ll begin to atrophy. So just as we take steps while sheltering in place to maintain our physical well-being—daily walks, at-home yoga, getting up to stretch throughout the day—we should be doing things to ensure our vehicle stays in good working order as well.
“Sitting is one of the worst things that can happen to a car,” advises mechanic Brian Early of Auto Experts in Oshawa, Ont. Vehicles that aren’t used for prolonged periods are at greater risk for developing problems.
When looking specifically at the COVID-19 shutdown, Early notes that one of the biggest mechanical issues he’s been seeing are corroded brakes. With our economic shutdown happening just as winter transitioned into spring, there’s been plenty of moisture around to seep into a stationary car and into the brake systems. “The risk is less for those who keep their vehicles in a garage or indoor parking lot as opposed to on a driveway” he notes, “but many of us keep our vehicles regularly parked outside.”
Another mechanical concern for vehicles parked for prolonged periods relates to batteries. Even when parked and switched off, a vehicle will still draw from its battery due to the many electronics they are equipped with. To overcome this risk, Early recommends the use of a battery tender, which is a device that plugs into a standard AC outlet and transfers power in the form of amps to your 12 V battery to keep it operational over long periods of inactivity. A battery tender costs about $50 to buy, but to be able to use one, a vehicle has to be parked close enough to a power outlet that the tender can be consistently plugged into.