6 Tips to Help Keep Your Car in Good Working Order
Increasing temperatures and unusual operating conditions including extended periods of idleness take a toll on everyone – and everything – including your car. Irregular and infrequent operation due to COVID-19 measures and increasing heat can push cars and engines past their limits, and that can lead to expensive repairs or even being stranded at the roadside with limited ability to get help during these extraordinary times. The following tips can help you limit some of that risk.
1. Make sure your battery is good working order - especially if not used daily.
Battery problems don’t always occur in the winter. In fact, irregular use, short trips, and increased temperatures can have a more negative impact on your battery than freezing winter temperatures. Heat and vibration are a battery’s worst enemies, leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure. While you can’t do much about the heat, you can make sure your battery is securely mounted to minimize vibration. Another potential problem is faster evaporation of battery fluid, which leads to corrosion on terminals and connections. Clean any corrosive buildup from battery terminals and cable clamps, and ensure the clamps are tight enough that they will not move. Bitron Penetrating Lubricant can be applied to the terminals to prevent corrosion and displace moisture. One application will provide protection for a very long time. Be sure to use it if you have it handy.
If you have parked your car for days on end or have been making short trips, your car battery won’t have sufficient time to recharge. Take extended trips on a regular basis to help the battery gain a full charge. If you know you vehicle will have extended periods of infrequent use, consider getting a trickle charger or testing the battery to make sure it is not degrading. Do this with a multimeter by connecting it when the car is off. Connect the red (positive) lead to your battery’s positive terminal, then the black (negative) lead to the negative terminal. Turn the meter to the DC volt setting and read the results. If your battery reads at least 12.4 volts, then it’s sufficiently charged and should continue to hold a charge. If the reading is below that, the battery may not be able to accept a recharge. If not, replace the battery at once. While a multimeter may give you a quick indication of your battery condition it is not as reliable as the equipment at a profession garage or service center. If you are concerned at all with the reliability of your battery or it is over 3 years old, it is best to take it to a professional to have it tested. You can also consider an AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) battery design that is better equipped to withstand these conditions.
2. Keep your engine cool and oil circulating.
Cooling systems protect engines from overheating and should be flushed periodically, as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Between flushes, make sure the coolant is filled to the proper level by checking the overflow reservoir. If necessary, top off the reservoir with a 50/50 mix of water and the coolant type specified by the vehicle manufacturer. CAUTION! – Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot – boiling coolant under pressure could cause serious burns. Rubber cooling system components are susceptible to heat-related deterioration, so periodically inspect hoses and drive belts for cracking, soft spots or other signs of poor condition. If your engine has overheated in the past, keep some coolant and water safely stowed in the trunk.
If you have not been using your car daily it may cause all of the oil to return to the sump from the engine surfaces and result in increased wear at engine start and during short trips. Be sure to use a quality engine oil treated with Bitron Engine Treatment to maximize engine protection in case of coolant loss, excessive engine temperatures and lack of regular oil circulation. Temperatures above the normal operating temperature can create excessive wear and even mechanical damage. If you see an increase in operating temperature, check your oil more frequently and replace more frequently depending on oil condition.
3. Keep your tires properly inflated.
If your car is parked for extended periods of time then be sure to move the car occasionally to avoid tire flat spots and check the tire pressure before driving. Driving on under-inflated tires can cause tires to overheat and increase the likelihood of a blowout, especially when road temperatures are extremely high. In addition to that, low tire pressure will mean a decrease in fuel economy - you're losing money. Check your car’s tire pressures (including the spare) at least once a month, because tires typically lose about one pound of pressure per month through normal seepage. For the most accurate reading, check tire pressures when the tires are cold. Always follow inflation pressure recommendations in your vehicle owner’s manual or on the tire information label located in the glove box or on the driver’s door jamb. Do not use the inflation pressure molded into the tire sidewall, which may not be the correct pressure for your particular vehicle.
4. Make sure fluids are at appropriate levels.
Most engine fluids lubricate and serve as coolants by helping carry heat away from critical components. When fluid levels are low, the cooling effect is reduced, which increases the possibility of overheating. Periodically check all vehicle fluids, including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid, to ensure they are at appropriate levels. To drastically increase the ability of your engine oil, transmission and steering fluid to carry away heat, use Bitron Engine Treatment and Bitron Powertrain Treatment consistently and with each fluid change. This will also greatly increase protection of components in case of overheating or fluid loss.
5. Maintain a comfortable driving environment.
With increased heat, an air-conditioning system can be more than just a pleasant convenience. It can reduce fatigue, which plays an important part in driver alertness and vehicle safety. If a car’s air conditioning is not maintaining the interior temperature as well as it once did, it may mean the refrigerant level is low or there is another problem. Have the system checked by a certified technician. In addition, if your car has a cabin filter, it should be inspected and replaced as needed to ensure maximum airflow and cooling during the summer months.
6. Be prepared for breakdowns.
Even with preventive maintenance, breakdowns can still occur, day or night. Have a well-stocked emergency kit your car. he kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools and a first aid kit. Check with your roadside service provider about the support levels they provide during the COVID-19 crisis and make sure you account for the changes in service levels and times.
Many maintenance tasks needed to maintain car's good working order are relatively simple and can be performed by the average driver, but some are best left to a trained automotive technician. Look for CAA or AAA approved repair shops if you do not yet have a trusted technician you trust your second biggest investment to. Be sure to read online reviews, ask lots of questions and even ask for references or credentials confirming ability to perform repairs, especially for bigger repair jobs.