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Car Maintenance and Repair During COVID-19

From Maintenance and Service to Basic Car-Care Tips

As more states implement shelter-in-place orders, and more businesses encourage employees to work from home, you and your family may find your vehicles being driven far more infrequently than usual. Leaving cars parked for long periods of time can have unforeseen consequences that can impact both the reliability and potentially safety of the vehicles.

If you're planning on mothballing a car for three months or more, you can check out our article on how to prep your car for long-term storage. But with so much uncertainty right now, you may not want to take your car off the road for such a long period. In this article, we'll cover some common trouble spots to watch out for and give you simple solutions for keeping your car moving. We'll also cover what to do if something more serious goes wrong with your car.

Common Trouble Spots

The biggest concern with tires is flat-spotting, which is when the weight of the vehicle sitting on one spot flattens out a portion of the rubber on the tire. While flat-spotting isn't likely to happen in two weeks, if conditions are right, a month of being stationary might be enough to cause problems. Low tire pressure and very cold weather can both contribute to the development of flat spots. We recommend starting by checking your tire pressure and inflating them to factory specification. You can find manufacturer recommendations for tire pressures either on the placard attached to the doorsill of the driver's door or in your car's manual.

When left unused, brake rotors can begin to develop rust on the surface of the rotors. If you leave your parking brake engaged for a long period of time, it can actually cause the brake pads to bind to the rotors. While this shouldn't be a concern over a few weeks, if you know your car will be parked for a month or more we recommend leaving the parking brake off. Obviously, you should always put safety first and only do so on a flat surface. Brake repairs are always preferable to a runaway car.

Over time, your car's battery can discharge and leave you needing to jump-start your car. You can plug your vehicle into a battery maintainer if you have one. Or if you know your car will be sitting for a long time, you can always disconnect the battery.

Rats and other pests can cause real trouble for vehicles in long-term storage. Take reasonable steps to protect your parking area from common pests, and if your car has been parked for more than a few weeks, we recommend popping the hood and taking a look for any evidence that wires or belts have been chewed on. Also keep an eye out for furry stowaways in your engine compartment and around the top of your tires in your wheelwells.

Your local car wash may not be open, and if your vehicle is parked outside it's likely to accumulate dust, bird droppings, and other contaminants such as tree sap or water spots from nearby sprinklers. Over time, exposure to the elements can damage your vehicle's paint. If you can, we recommend parking under cover or using a weatherproof car cover. If droppings or other localized contaminants do get on your paint, you can use a spot cleaner and a soft cloth.

Fluids are a major issue for long-term storage. Fuel can separate, and water vapor can accumulate in your gas tank. Gaskets and hoses that aren't kept lubricated can dry out and become brittle. Our long-term storage advice can help if you're planning on letting your car sit for three months or more, but the current situation likely doesn't call for those measures.

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Just Drive It

There's a simple solution to almost all of the troubles facing your car as it languishes in its parking spot: driving it. We recommend driving your car for at least 20 minutes once every two weeks. That's enough time to warm up your tires and protect from flat spots, return some charge to your battery, wear surface rust off your brake disks, and keep the fluids in your car moving and everything properly lubricated.

It's a simple solution, but it works. Cars are designed to be driven, so it's easier to keep them healthy by putting them to regular use.

Maintenance and Breakdowns

There are some issues that time on the road can't fix. Your car may come due for regular maintenance during the COVID-19 pandemic, or it may suffer a breakdown or have a check engine light.

Even in states with shelter-in-place orders, repair shops and dealership service departments have been deemed necessary services and should remain open. Here are the steps we recommend taking if your car needs service that you can't perform yourself.

Call ahead
Make sure to call your service shop or dealership. It may have limited hours during the pandemic, and you should set an appointment rather than just walking in to cut down on the time you'll need to spend checking your vehicle in. There's also a chance that if you need scheduled maintenance, it may be worth postponing until after social-distancing measures are no longer necessary. If you're not driving much, or if the maintenance is relatively minor, it might be able to wait. Your service associate can help you make that decision.

Plan to wait or arrange transportation
If your required service won't take long, you might make the choice to wait. Ask ahead of time about the waiting area and whether it's easy to maintain the recommended distance from employees and other customers. Also ask if the space is being regularly cleaned. Bring whatever supplies you need to make you feel safe and comfortable.

If your service will take longer and you're getting a loaner or rental car, make sure to sterilize commonly touched surfaces.

Sterilize your vehicle after pickup
Your car may be returned to you clean, and extra attention may have been paid to the interior by conscientious service people, but for your own safety and peace of mind we recommend sterilizing common touch points inside your vehicle. You can read our full guide to reduce the risk of disease transmission in your vehicle for a detailed guide on how and what to sterilize in your vehicle's cabin.

Other Coronavirus Resources

Car payment relief during coronavirus: What you need to know if you or someone you know needs relief from car payments due to the crisis.

COVID-19 car buying resources, advice and incentives: If you need to buy a car during the coronavirus crisis, we have all the information you need.

Online car shopping during social distancing: A guide to buying a car from the safety of your home.

How to reduce the risk of coronavirus in your vehicle: Whether in your personal car, a ride share, or even on public transit, we lay out how to minimize your risk of infection.


2024 Hyundai TUCSON


2024 Hyundai TUCSON

2024 Hyundai TUCSON

"It's among the best rides in the class." – Edmunds
Learn More

2024 Hyundai TUCSON

"It's among the best rides in the class." – Edmunds
Learn More

2024 Hyundai TUCSON

"It's among the best rides in the class." – Edmunds
Learn More