How to maintain and store your vehicle during the COVID-19 self-isolation period.

CAA Auto Advice April 29, 2020
Man wiping down his car steering wheel.

As we all do our part to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 in our communities, social distancing has become the new norm. Many of us are working from home or, at the very least, not travelling or going out and about like we used to. This will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

An unintended consequence of this new normal is that many of us aren’t driving our cars as often, if at all. But given the unusual circumstances we’re living under right now, you might find that you need your vehicle at a moment’s notice.

That’s why the automotive experts at CAA Auto Advice have compiled some great tips to help you make sure your vehicle is in good shape during its hibernation and ready to drive the next time you need it.

If your vehicle is idle for up to 45 days.

Protect the battery.

If you don’t plan on driving at least once every couple of weeks, your battery could eventually lose its charge but there are things you can do to keep this from happening.

First - make sure the battery terminals are clean, tight and free of corrosion. If possible, we recommend you use a Battery Tender or other maintenance-type battery charger to keep it charged and prevent deterioration when not in use. You'll soon be able to order one online from CAA, or they may also be available to order from other automotive shops.

If you need immediate assistance and are a CAA Member, a better option is to call our mobile battery service for a boost or a battery check1 at: 1-800-222-4357 (or *222). 

CAA car battery.

To extend the life of your battery, make sure that both terminals are clean and free from corrosion.

Keep your vehicle insured. 

Auto insurance protects against claims due to unforeseen circumstances. If you’re not going to be driving your vehicle for a while, consider moving to a pay-as-you-go auto insurance plan like CAA MyPace™. You can buy insurance for only the kilometres you drive - an ideal option for low mileage drivers.

Top up the fluids.

Deteriorated fluids can lead to rust and corrosion. If your car is due for an oil change, have it done to remove any acids and contaminants. The same goes for your brake fluid and coolant. You can also top up steering fluid (if applicable), transmission fluid, antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid as well. 

Adding a fuel stabilizer and preservative such as STA-BIL® to your gas will help keep your fuel fresh for a quick and easy start up after storage. It also removes water to prevent corrosion as well as protects the engine and fuel system from gum, varnish, rust, and corrosion. 

It’s easy to add. When you’re at a service station, just pour it into your gas tank (follow the product instructions) and immediately fill or top up your tank. Be sure to drive the car for five to ten km to make sure the solution is properly mixed in with your full tank of fuel.

Man filling parked car tire with air.

Inflate your tires.

Over time, flat spots can form on your tires when the area of the tire touching the ground becomes rigid due to sitting in one position for an extended period. To help prevent this, add an additional 10 psi of pressure to each tire (Pssst! Don’t forget to deflate them when you start driving again). You can also move the vehicle periodically, or if you have the appropriate equipment, place the car on jack stands with the tires off the ground. Storage pads with semi-circular shapes that support the tire over a wider area are also a good option.

Avoid using the parking brake.

Depending on your vehicle and storage conditions, your parking brake could become seized, brake pads could rust to the rotors or brake shoes could distort the drums. This is why we don’t recommend that you use the parking brake when storing your vehicle. If your vehicle has an automatic transmission, simply place it in park. If the car has a manual transmission, place it in first or reverse gear and use wheel chocks to help hold the vehicle in place.

If your vehicle is idle for more than 45 days.

If you’re keeping your vehicle off the road longer than 45 days, the team at CAA Auto Advice offer a few additional storage tips you’ll want to consider:

  • Wash your vehicle to remove road salt, bird droppings (very acidic) tire sap and dirt to help fight against corrosion and paint damage. The longer these things sit on the paint, the more time sunlight and heat have to accelerate the damage. Giving your vehicle a wax helps protect paint against the sun’s harmful UV rays. This is something you should do often, not just when your car is off the road. 
  • Store your car indoors in a cool, dark and dry location. If this is not possible, consider a portable parking structure or “car bag.” Bags are great at protecting your vehicle from the elements and general dirt and debris. You could also try a high-quality car cover that keeps moisture out but still lets the airflow through, allowing your car to “breathe”.
  • If your car will be exposed to significant moisture, use desiccant packs inside the car to help keep everything dry. 
  • Prop up the wiper arms so the blades are off the windshield and won’t get stuck to the glass. If there are strong winds the arms may fall back down but they shouldn't damage the windshield. 
  • If there is a likelihood of mice or other critters where you are storing the car, you’ll want to seal off the tailpipe, engine air filter inlet and any other readily accessible openings with steel or copper wool (rodents dislike its taste). Just make sure to remove these items before you start driving again!

The CAA Auto Advice team provides Members with free automotive advice. If you have questions about car care, buying a new or used vehicle, auto repairs, vehicle inspection, driving costs and more, contact us by phone at: 1-866-464-6448 or email: autoadvice@caasco.ca