idle car

Quarantine Car Checks for an Idle Car

It’s been one year since COVID hit…how’s your car doing?

If you find yourself not revving up your car every day or taking it for a spin around town, you may not think twice about general maintenance like oil changes or tire rotations. In fact, you might just think your trusty vehicle is sitting patiently in the garage awaiting your return, ready to turn over and take off with the twist of a key. We may like to imagine our cars stay in whatever condition we leave them in, but not driving your car for a while can still cause some gnarly damage.

Thankfully, our technicians at VIP European Auto Interiors know just what you should do if your idle car is giving you trouble. 

Always Check Under the Hood

Your battery should be the first place you look under the hood. It’s common practice to hook your car up to a battery tender when it’s in storage. They help your battery maintain a proper charge so you don’t have to worry about replacing it every year. Assuming the tender is still working properly and your battery is charged, you should be good to go. 

If you’ve used a cheaper trickle charger, then you may want to check out your battery a little more. Trickle chargers can overcharge your battery, which can damage it, especially if you have a standard wet-cell lead-acid battery.

If your vehicle has been sitting for months on end with no charger at all, your battery may be weak or drained. If you know how to yourself, you should replace it. If not, mechanics can get it done pretty quickly. 

Before anything, even if you have a nice battery tender, you should always check the charge with an electric tester. If it’s low, you’ll need to get it charged. If it’s dead, and you need it replaced and your onboard computer system may need to be reset.

Outside of the battery, you should check for corrosion and residue on the posts and cable clamps. Make sure there’s no cracks, or signs of wear and tear. Jiggle all of the cables to make sure they’re still secure as well. 

Take a Good Look at Your Tires

Once you’re done under the hood, give your car a good walk around and pay close attention to the tires. You should be able to see if a tire is low or not, but it’s always a good idea to check the pressure anyway. 

If it’s low, top it off with a home air compressor, or get to a tire store or filling station. 

Also look at your tread wear and inspect all tires for cracks and bulges. Be sure to look on the sidewalls facing the axles as well as the street side. You may need a flashlight.

Tire rot is like a death sentence for your tires, and while they may appear safe to drive on at first, they can be dangerous. You can get dry rot on your tires for a number of reasons, but let’s focus on the topic at hand – leaving your tires unused can be just as bad as driving them underinflated.

Check Fluid Levels

While you’re looking at the wheels, check under the car for any sign of fluid leaks. Even if you don’t see any, you’ll want to have the transmission, power steering, and brake fluids checked.

You should also schedule an oil change sooner rather than later. Old oil may be contaminated by condensation, which is horrible for your car’s engine. 

If you neglected to add fuel stabilizer to your gas tank before storage, fill up with high-octane gas and add some octane booster.

Brakes & Suspension

When you’re ready to start up, first make sure your tailpipe is clear. Turn on your car and let it idle for a few minutes to burn out anything old. It may smell for a little bit, but that’s normal. If the smell lasts after a solid 10 minutes of running, there may be something wrong. 

Once the engine has warmed up, tap on the brakes a few times (while the car is in park). If everything feels normal, take your car for a little spin around the parking lot. Pay attention for anything that feels or sounds off, like delays, grinding, or squealing. Watch the dashboard too in case any warning lights pop up.

It is completely normal for your brakes to squeal or make funny noises for a little while, especially if you haven’t driven your car in months. This should go away on it’s own. It’s caused by rust that should be worn off when you use your brakes more. 

If the sound ligners, take your car into a shop. 

Paint and Body Damage

You may lovingly store your undriven car within the safe confines of your garage, but chances are if you’re not driving it that you’re more inclined to want to pull your daily driver into the safe haven of your garage. While paint and body damage is really only a concern for people that leave their undriven cars outside or in semi-open carports, the threat is still there.

Leaving your car in bare sunlight day after day can expose the car to more harmful UV rays that it otherwise might avoid. Obviously your car isn’t going to get a sunburn, but harmful rays from the sun can cause a clear coat over your car’s paint to oxidize and begin to fail. This leaves blotchy, peeling spots around your car that can only be salvaged by repainting.

Mild winds or animals can also cause harm to your car. So give your car a good once over, inside and out, and make sure everything is good before hitting the road again. Have fun driving!