Essential workers across many industries are still reporting for work and people need to shop for food, medicine and other needs even as they try to limit their interactions with each other.
Just as many are doing what they can to avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor or by taking care of their health, there are some steps you can take to keep your car in shape so you don’t need to take it to the auto repair shop.
While not everyone can become a mechanic overnight, AAA and the auto repair and service professionals organization ASE have a few tips to take care of your vehicle that apply all the time, but especially right now.
KNOW YOUR CAR
Both organizations agree that everyone should be familiar with the recommended maintenance schedule for their vehicle. Just like missing a dentist appointment, skipping a service interval for any component can lead to a painful problem down the road.
CHECK THE FLUIDS
An oil change is one of the most important, but also easiest DIY auto care procedures. How often you need to do it, the type of oil needed and steps to perform the change are clearly explained in the manual. ASE Executive Director Dave Cappert says not to forget the oil filter.
AAA repair systems manager David Bennet adds that you should also keep an eye on the radiator, transmission and brake fluids, which all have much longer change intervals than oil, but are just as critical to you vehicle’s health. Cappert suggests keeping products on hand in case supplies are disrupted and you can’t find what you need when you need it.
PUMP IT UP
Tire pressures should be checked at least once a month, according to Cappert. This ensures they’re providing the right level of performance, and can prevent unnecessary wear and tear. You should keep a pressure gauge handy and use it when the tires are cold, before you drive the car for the first time in a day. He says it’s also a good idea to have your own air compressor, as finding a public one isn’t as easy as it used to be. Some cars even come with a fix-a-flat kit in lieu of a spare tire, which you should also make sure to have. Remember to consult the label inside the door jamb for the auto manufacturer-recommended pressures, as the number listed on the sidewall of the tire is the maximum pressure it can handle, and not specific to your model. Tire rotation intervals also should be maintained.
CLEAR THE AIR
One auto part that’s often overlooked by owners is the cabin air filter, which can have a big impact on both air quality and Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) performance, according to Cappert. It may not stop the spread of any viruses, but with pollen season upon us and the weather warming up, having a clean air filter could keep you feeling better while reducing the strain on your HVAC system. The filter is typically located behind the glove compartment and can be accessed with simple tools.
CLEAN YOUR BOTTOM
Cappert says spring is a good time to get your vehicle’s underbody washed, especially if you live in the snow belt, because road salt can collect and promote corrosion. It won’t reverse any deterioration that’s already underway, but it may slow it down. Many automatic car washes offer this option, but a hose and a sturdy set of knees will do in a pinch.
DON’T FORGET TO WIPE
Even on empty roads, poor visibility can lead to an accident, which is the last thing you want to happen right now. Bennet says to make sure your windshield wipers are clean or replaced if necessary, and do the same if there’s one on the hatchback.
Of course, if you’re uncomfortable doing any of these things yourself, or if a major repair is needed, it’s always best to leave it to a professional. Auto repair shops that are currently operating have initiated social distancing measures to keep things as safe as possible, and AAA and ASE each have searchable databases for approved and certified outlets.