With the chills of winter behind us, many drivers are taking their summer rides out of storage. Before hitting the road, it's important to examine a few key systems to make sure everything's in top shape. Even if you're not the type to have a cool car tucked away for driving in the summertime, many people are working from home and not on the road as frequently due to COVID-19. This post is for them, too.
Key systems and things to check before you hit the road.
Battery.Twisting the key - or pushing the start button - only to find you have a dead battery is not fun. Any number of things can drain the battery of a vehicle that's been sitting awhile, from an interior light left on to a forgotten phone charger siphoning juice from a power outlet. If you discover your battery is dead, don’t worry; CAA is only a phone call away and can come and give your vehicle the boost it needs.
Oil and fluids.Prior to taking that first drive, check your car's engine oil and fluids. Make sure you’re parked on a level surface and the engine is off before lifting the hood. Begin by looking for obvious signs of trouble such as a fluid leak or broken parts. Even excessive debris like tree leaves can cause issues, so take a minute to eliminate this stuff if it exists. Reference your owner’s manual for instructions on how to top-up your windshield fluid and engine coolant. Don't forget to peek in the engine bay for critters and their nests if your car has been sitting for a particularly long time.
Electrical.During startup, look closely at the dashboard for warning lights, odd readings or messages. If a warning is flashing, refer to your owner’s manual. The engine may idle at a slightly higher speed than normal for a minute or two if it is cold. Take the time to listen for strange noises at this time as well. And it should go without saying that one should never permit a car to idle in an enclosed or unventilated area for any length of time.
Tire pressure.Most modern vehicles have tire pressure monitoring systems that illuminate a dashboard light if low air levels are detected. Even if a tire has lost 25% of its air pressure, it can be difficult to tell with just a visual inspection alone. Partially flat tires can cause problems with handling and contribute to a reduction in fuel economy. Tire pressure checks can be done at home with a pressure gauge and if you have a portable tire inflator, you can also pump air too. If you don’t have either of these gadgets, most local gas stations have an air pump station and some may have a handy pressure gauge available. Always remember to check your vehicle manual to ensure the correct tire pressure.
Interior and exterior cleaning.After sitting for an extended period, whether in a garage or curbside, your car should be cleaned and washed. The inevitable buildup of dust and grime not only looks unsightly but could affect the paint. This is doubly true for bird droppings and tree sap which are very acidic and can damage the finish.
The best medicine - for your car - after performing these checks is a good 20 minute drive. That's sufficient time to return some juice to the battery, warm the tires to guard against flat spots, and generally get all the fluids moving at operating temperature.