Maintaining a Vehicle When Working From Home

Apr 28, 2020

At Nexigen, we’re more than just computer geeks who spend our free time designing home networks, building computers for playing online games and helping our friends and relatives navigate technology. Many of us are also car and motorcycle enthusiasts who enjoy doing our own vehicle maintenance and making improvements to our daily drivers to personalize them and make them more fun to drive and own. (As well as being motorsports fans; so many postponed or canceled events in 2020! sadface.jpg)

To that end, we’ve put together some pointers for keeping your now little-used commuter vehicles ready for the next trip, planned or otherwise.

On to the tips!

1) Set mouse traps around your car and inside the trunk to catch destructive rodents

Mouse trap near parked car

Many newer cars use “biodegradable” or “earth-friendly” materials that rodents and other wildlife see as food. For instance, an increasing number of cars use soy-based plastics as wire insulation and there is no shortage of examples of large repairs bills due to mice and other animals eating that insulation and causing electrical issues. Setting mousetraps around and under your vehicle (as well as on top of the tires) can prevent mice from setting up residence in your pride and joy. Catch and release might be an option, but you have to take the intruders far away or they’ll just work their way back.

Be sure to park away from tall grass, garbage cans or street drains where animals might already live and could make your car an inviting home for unwanted visitors. Remember to look under the hood for nests or larger creatures who might have moved in, as cats, possums and raccoons are notorious for climbing up into the engine bay and causing chaos.


2) Change the oil before it’s 90 days old to renew corrosion inhibitors that protect the inside of the engine

Most of us know that the engine oil needs to be changed at the manufacturer’s specified interval in order to keep our cars’ engines healthy and long-living. But, did you know that engine oil has a live span measured in months once it’s in your car’s engine? It’s true; engine oil has corrosion inhibitors that prevent damage caused by moisture and combustion byproducts that are depleted over time. So, your engine can still suffer damage even if it’s not being used.

Check the last time your oil was changed and get it changed before it hits the 90-day mark!


3) Keep tires aired up so they don’t develop flat spots or damage the sidewalls

Checking tire pressure

Your tires may slowly lose air as the rubber ages and the pressurized air finds all the microscopic paths to freedom. Normally, this isn’t noticed as most oil-change stores and dealerships will check and refill tires when you get your oil changed or other routine maintenance performed. Since your vehicle is sitting more than usual, be sure to keep your tires pumped up so that the tread is less likely to get flat-spotted, or worse, the sideways are damaged from going completely flat.

Portable air compressors are commonplace and inexpensive. Most can be plugged into the lighter outlet (Power port?) in your automobile and will top off the pressure in a few minutes. However, be sure to read the next few items, as running accessories on your vehicle without driving it regularly can run your battery down and shorten its life!

4) Avoid short trips and excessive idling

On short trips (less than five to ten miles), your car’s engine doesn’t get enough time to full warm up and burn off moisture and combustion products. As cars have become more efficient and environmentally friendly, a primary engine emission is now water, which collects in the engine and exhaust. If not run long enough, those components won’t reach a temperature where the water can evaporate and be pushed out of the system. That lingering moisture then becomes acidic from other combustion by-products and will shorten the life of metal parts in the engine and exhaust.

5) Keep your car clean

Even parked in a garage or under a car port, your car can get pretty grimey. If your parking spot is outside, trees, birds, squirrels and other features of nature are conspiring against your car’s paint and exterior finishes. The next time you’re out running errands or taking a quiet drive for a change of scenery, get your car washed to get that damaging crud off the paint. Now is also a great time to apply a coat of protective wax to extend the life of the finish and keep it looking factory-fresh.

The interior should get some attention, too. Get rid of any trash, particularly food packaging as it attracts vermin, sweep the carpets and apply protectant to vinyl and leather surfaces. Make sure the windows are closed tightly and think about buying a sunshade to put in the windshield to keep interior temperatures down and to help protect against sun damage.

6) Invest in a battery charger or maintainer and keep the battery charged

The battery in your car will slowly self-discharge over-time and modern cars have many “always-on” systems that hasten that discharge. Even if the battery still has some charge in it, many newer vehicles will not even attempt to start if the voltage is too low (usually 10 volts or so). If the voltage drops too low for too long, that expensive battery will be permanently damaged and will require replacement.

Car battery chargers are inexpensive and available on-line and in department stores for less than fifty dollars. Solar maintainers are also an option, but be wary of off-brands or low-quality knock-offs that can cause more problems than they solve. As a last resort, a battery-powered jump pack is a good investment in case your battery has drained too low to crank and you need to get the car started in short order.


7) Keep your fuel tank full

In order to minimize emissions, many jurisdictions require that gasoline have up to 10% ethanol added. This ethanol reduces harmful emissions and provides a boost to octane ratings, but it also attracts moisture from the atmosphere which creates a caustic slurry that damages metal and rubber in the fuel system. Keeping the tank filled minimizes the amount of air and moisture exposure, which keeps that acidic soup from forming.

If your vehicle will be sitting for an extended period (more than a few weeks), consider adding a fuel stabilizer before filling up and driving around for a bit to thoroughly mix the preservative in the tank and distribute it throughout the fuel system. Be sure to only use a stabilizer that is rated for vehicles that have catalytic converters or they could be permanently damaged ($$$).

A little prevention goes a long way

While this isn’t the shortest howto list around, most are easy to do and mostly just a change in your normal schedule. Keeping your car in tip-top shape is as important as maintaining your computers and network devices and will help ensure they are ready when you need them most.

Stay well!