It hasn’t been that long since we all moved home to stay healthy. For many, working remotely has become a new way of life.
There are a lot of things to love about working remotely:
- Short commute
- Sleep longer
- Less stress
- More time with the family
- More flexibility with your schedule
While you may be adjusting nicely to your new schedule, your car may be undergoing changes of its own. Your normal routine used to have you on the road an hour or more each day. Now you’re lucky if you drive for an hour a week.
Does it matter? Will your car stay healthy when it doesn’t run every day?
Maintain a routine
If you read your owner’s manual, you’ll find that almost every maintenance item comes with a mileage indicator:
- Timing belts between 60,000 and 100,000 miles
- Air cabin filters around 15,000 miles
- Wiper blades once a year
Of course, your vehicle’s maintenance routine may differ, depending on your make and model.
These are guidelines. They base them on averages. The US Department of Transportation has found that the average driver travels just under 13,000 miles annually. This equates to 1,060 miles per month, or about 35 miles per day.
If you’re working remotely, that 35 miles may seem exceptionally high. You may be lucky to drive 35 miles per week. But does that mean your car’s components will last two, three, or four times as long because you’re not driving?
Many components wear down whether you drive daily or not. Liquids and oils can degrade my lack of movement. Rubber can become hard and crack. Belts can become stiff. Metal can rust and corrode.
While many major components may still have a long life, it’s a good idea to stick with a routine maintenance schedule to ensure everything is working its best. Many drivers adapt a seasonal maintenance plan – bring it in before summer and winter to ensure every system works at its best. Then, when you do need your car, you’ll be sure it’s working as best as possible.
Change your motor oil
The old rule of thumb used to be to change your motor oil every 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever came first. Because technology has improved everything about how we drive, those guidelines have changed, depending on the vehicle you drive. Many now state you can wait as long as 10,000 miles or 12 months, depending on your car. Check your owner’s manual for guidelines.
Motor oil should be monitored and changed based on mileage and time. That’s because oil degrades whether you’re driving your vehicle or not. Oil becomes less effective as it ages. If it’s not warming up regularly, excess moisture may be forming. This can lead to engine damage and failure over time.
Check your battery
When you purchase a new battery for your car, it quotes its lifespan in years, usually 3 to 7 years. Over time, as a battery wears down, it starts losing its charge. The longer you leave it, the greater chance of having it not start.
Most car batteries are SLI – starting, lighting, and ignition. SLI batteries provide short bursts of power to run your engine, lights, and other accessories. Once the battery brings the engine to life, power is continually supplied via the alternator.
This process keeps the battery charged and ready every time. Leaving it sit means it doesn’t have a chance to receive these bursts of energy, which keeps the battery charged. It can also allow buildup and corrosion around the terminals of the battery.
Check your tires
Use it or lose it. That’s great advice for people. It’s also great advice for most components on your vehicle, tires included.
Today’s vehicles can weigh thousands of pounds. When you drive regularly, they rotate, redistributing that weight over and over again. When you leave your car sitting, the same spot presses against the flat ground, which can cause flat spotting.
The air around your car changes daily. Here in Colorado, it’s easy to have 30, 40, or 50 degree temperature swings in just a few hours. As the temperatures heat and cool, your tire’s compounds change. Air pressure adjusts as well. Over time, this can lead to flat spots in different areas of your tires. You may not visibly see them, but they will impact the structure of your tires.
You’ll notice it as vibrations while you drive. It can impact the way you steer. Flat spots can occur in as few as thirty days, especially when temperatures change drastically from day to day.
Keep your tank filled
If you’re not driving much, why fill the tank with expensive gas? There are a lot of benefits to keeping your tank filled, even when you’re not driving much.
Today’s fuel systems are air-tight and function well. They are designed to help keep condensation from building, and keep your fuel tank in good condition. However, water starts to appear the longer fuel sits in a vehicle. If it has space to accumulate, the chances accelerate. Then when temperatures turn cold, this water buildup may freeze. That will prevent your car from starting when you head out to drive.
If you are spending more time at home, driving occasionally is a good idea to get all systems working efficiently. Head into the mountains for a weekend drive. Or plan various errands from time to time, helping every system function, including fuel to move through the system. Keeping the fuel pump working extends its life, and prevents potentially costly repairs.
The bottom line
Cars are meant to be used. Parts stay in good working condition when they are put into action regularly.
It doesn’t take much; running and doing errands will keep each part working well.
Regular maintenance routines should continue based on mileage and time. When in doubt, have a mechanic check it out. An a-ok ensures everything is operating well. And you won’t face expensive problems down the road.