AAA’s ‘Car Doctor’ shares advice on keeping cars healthy during pandemic

How to keep your unused car healthy and ready for when you need it again

With so many cars staying parked as their owners remain home during the global pandemic, the American Automobile Association offered helpful advice to avoid car trouble.

“It starts with that whole idea of lack of use,” said AAA Northeast’s Senior Manager for Public Affairs and Traffic Safety John Paul. “A lot of things that happen, happen very gradually.”

Paul, also dubbed “AAA’s Car Doctor,” said it’s important to drive a car at least once a week for 20-to-30 minutes.

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“A lot of cars today, when they’re just sitting there idling, they’re not really charging up the battery. So, you actually need to go out and drive it,” Paul said. “Starting your car every day and letting it run for five minutes is actually taking away from the battery, not charging it back up.”

Driving also allows the car to get “exercise,” as Paul described it, and shake off the rust that might build up on the brakes.

AAA’s Car Doctor also recommended these steps:

  • Inflate the tires to the maximum tire pressure listed on the tire, rather than the normally recommended levels on the placard inside the door. A little bit of air leakage is normal, so this helps counter issues that arise from that when unused over time.
  • Fill up the gas tank and, if possible, use a gasoline stabilizer. This helps make sure condensation doesn’t build inside the gas tank and helps prevent the gas from becoming stale.
  • Clean the car thoroughly to avoid attracting critters that may chew on important items under the hood. Paul also suggested placing predator scent around the car or oil of spearmint in the car to keep critters away.
  • Avoid using the parking brake. Normally, AAA advises that owners use the parking brake. However, parking brakes can stick when engaged for long periods of time, so during the pandemic, Paul recommends avoiding its use.

“It’s sort of like us,” Paul added. “If we sit around too long, we kind of get all cramped up [and] we can’t do what we need to do. [It’s the] same thing with your car to some extent as well.”