Quarantine car care tips: How do I maintain my car while in lockdown?

Cars are meant to be driven, and that's a fact. But we're all living in strange times with burgeoning quarantines, lockdowns, and social distancing measures – all in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. This means daily-driven cars are now immobilized for longer periods of time, and the big question remains: Do I need to care for my car in quarantine, even when I'm not driving it as much as before?

The answer is a big YES! Japanese carmaker Nissan came up with some helpful tips on how to care for your car while in quarantine. The following techniques are applicable to all import/domestic cars regardless of the make and model. "The longer a vehicle sits unused, the more likely it is to develop issues," said Ryan Fulkerson, director of new model engineering, Nissan North America. "Following some of these tips will keep your car in shape."

Keep the battery in tiptop shape

The car battery is one of the most neglected items under the hood – until something goes wrong, that is. There are many types of car batteries, but all of it needs a healthy state of charge to deliver peak performance.

While your vehicle is sitting idly in quarantine, it's a good idea to keep the car battery fully charged. It's a known fact that car batteries tend to discharge over time and driving infrequently means the battery is not getting it's usual ration of electrons from the alternator. "The shelter-in-place orders in effect throughout much of the United States and Canada mean that many vehicles are seeing infrequent, if any, use," added Fulkerson.

Also, when all this coronavirus madness is over, the last thing you need is a car that won't start. You can prevent this killjoy from happening by using a battery tender or trickle charger. Before doing this, make sure both the positive and negative terminals are devoid of dirt and corrosion. And if you do find corrosion, remove it with an old toothbrush and a liquid solution of water and baking soda.

Start the engine or drive the vehicle from time to time

Doing this will not only prevent future battery issues, but it ensures vital engine fluids are circulating the entire system. This reduces the chances of premature wear and tear to engine components, and it also prevents rust and corrosion from eating away your brake rotors.

If you have more than one or two vehicles in your household, it's a good idea to alternate between vehicles on essential trips like buying food at the grocery store. The idea is to allow the motor and transmission to warm up to its ideal operating temperature. This ensures all moving parts are properly lubricated to avoid premature wear and tear during cold starts.

But if driving the vehicle for 20 minutes or less is not an option, you can start the engine while the vehicle is parked and allow the motor to idle for 10 to 15 minutes; or at least allow the motor to reach its ideal operating temperature.

Check all vital fluids

After driving or warming up the engine, make it a habit to periodically check all vital fluids including engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluids, and engine coolant. If any of the aforementioned fluids are low or lacking, replenish as necessary using fresh fluid.

Keep the tires properly inflated

When a vehicle is parked in the same position for prolonged periods, the tires may develop flat spots. This holds especially true if your car has old or balding tires. And if a vehicle is immobile for more than a week, the tires tend to lose air pressure.

Next time you gas up, it wouldn't hurt to check the air pressure on all four tires. The recommended tire pressure of your vehicle is indicated in the door sticker. But for most vehicles, maintaining a tire pressure of 30 to 35 psi is ideal.

Wash the vehicle with water and car shampoo

You may not notice it at first, but dust and dirt can quickly build up on an unused vehicle. Consistent exposure to wind, rain, snow, and UV rays are harsh on paint and exterior plastic surfaces. And while you're stuck at home with nothing else to do, it's probably time to give your vehicle some much needed TLC.

However, never wash a vehicle under direct sunlight. Park the car in a shaded area or garage before rinsing the vehicle with water to remove standing dust and debris. Next, wash the vehicle using a wash mitt and a cleaning solution of water and car shampoo. Rinse the vehicle when done, and remove excess water using a clean, dry microfiber towel. "Washing a car yourself can also relieve boredom and be a great activity for the entire family," added Fulkerson.

But if your vehicle requires servicing or repair this quarantine season, many dealerships are offering home pick-up and delivery, or no-contact drop off services to fulfill your needs. Remember, the most important thing right now (besides keeping your car in shape) is to stay healthy and stay safe.