Stay-at-home orders mean staying off the road, too, with some people not driving their cars for weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That can cause breakdowns if you’re not wary.

Jay Sinon, an instructor with NASCAR’s Technical Institute, offered tips about heading off car trouble for those who might now park their vehicles for weeks at a time.

Batteries

Sinon said this is your biggest concern, in part because all the electronics in modern cars can drain down batteries even when they are sitting idle.

“Without you driving your car on a daily basis, the battery is going to tend to go dead,” said Sinon. “Some of these cars have upwards of 100 computers. It takes four or five computers just to open the door on a modern-day car.”

At minimum, Sinon advises, start your car once a week and let it run for five to 10 minutes. That will get the car up to good operating temperature and recharge the battery.

Tires

Cars not moving for long periods of time will create a flat spot on the tires. That’s probably not permanent damage, but you will notice a difference when you first drive. So if you’re starting your car anyway, you might as well take a short spin.

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“It’s sitting on the pavement, just two or three inches” of the tire’s surface area, Sinon said of a flat spot, adding that you’ll feel a vibration initially if the tires sit idle.

“By (driving at least briefly), you’re moving it around and keeping it sealed really good. It won’t necessarily go flat (from being parked), but it will go down over time. We should check air pressure a couple of times a year, whether you’re driving the car or not.”

Fuel

Gasoline doesn’t last indefinitely in your tank, particularly fuels made partially from ethanol, Sinon said.

“It can start to deteriorate within a month. It can go bad within six months,” Sinon said.

Sinon said old fuel won’t burn as well and can thicken, clogging injectors and pumps in your car. He suggests that when a car won’t be driven for a while, treat it like a lawnmower in the winter: Either drain the fuel or get a stabilizer from an auto-parts store to prolong fuel life.

Sun damage

If your car will be parked outside for long periods, particularly with summer approaching, get sun shades to protect the car’s interior.

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“Think of eight to 10 hours of beaming sunlight, when that car never moves – when you get into your car in the summertime, it can be 150 degrees in there,” Sinon said.

Sinon said get one for the back window, as well – your dashboard and steering wheel will get sun damage, but so will the top of your backseats.

Oil and other fluids

Sinon said oil problems are most prevalent in areas of higher humidity than Charlotte. The humidity causes condensation problems in the oil’s metal pathways.

Still, if you’re not using a car for several months, he says, it’s smart to change the oil as a precaution before driving it again.

Pests

If a car isn’t driven, Sinon said, it can become attractive to animals looking for a home. So, particularly if the car is outside, make sure nothing is nesting in it.

“Over the years, I’ve taken squirrel nests out, and acorns out,” Sinon said. “Things that different animals have actually gotten under cars and taken there.”

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