Dubai: Most of us in the UAE are working from home, thanks to an insidious pandemic that has turned our world upside down. And our cars are sitting idle in the building car park, rented parking spaces, on the streets, and in open, sandy areas. Cars tend to be in the best condition when they are used, and maintained, regularly. The ‘using’ bit is not happening much nowadays, for obvious reasons, but with extremely basic maintenance, you can ensure that your car is ready for the job when you start using it regularly again.
Benefits of driving it once a week
The best way to avoid any damage to your car is to take it out for a drive for about 15 minutes at least once every 7 to 10 days. We are all allowed to go out to get essentials, like groceries and medicines. So, when you need those, it is a good idea to take the car out, after taking all the necessary precautions. Even if the supermarket is not far, take the longer route, drive around the block a few times to ensure you add 6 to 8km to the odometer.
Driving once a week will keep the fluids – engine oil, transmission fluid (gear oil), coolant, power-steering fluid – in circulation and keep the different components well lubricated.
Batteries are generally the first victims of extended car disuse. Another advantage of a weekly drive is that is it charges up the battery. Just starting the car and leaving it to idle for a few minutes is not enough. The car needs to be driven for at least 6 to 8km; you’ll know when you see the needle in temperature gauge rise from below C to position itself between C and H.
Tyres are a key safety component of a vehicle and are also expensive. If the car is left in one place for an extended period, with the normal running tyre pressure (between 32 and 35 Psi here in the UAE), the tyres can deteriorate more than in normal conditions as they lose pressure over time. Also, when the car is sitting in once place for a long time, flat spots appear on tyres at the place where the rubber touches the tarmac. This happens due to the weight of the vehicle. Tyres with flat spots are usually a fail at the annual car inspection.
What if you don’t want to use your car at all?
So, you’ve decided not to use your car at all. The best thing to do in such a situation is to disconnect the battery by removing the negative terminal, followed by the positive terminal. This way, you’ll have a charged battery available when you decide to start using your car again. All you need to do is to re-connect both terminals, using a simple spanner from your car’s tool kit.
The aforesaid flat spot is your primary concern. The trick, of course, is to drive the car once a week. But you’ve decided not to and have also disconnected the battery. In that scenario, all you need to do it to put the car in neutral (this applies to both manual and automatic vehicles), disengage the handbrake/parking brake, and push the car very slightly (about 25cm) either front or backwards, depending on the space. This ensures that the portion of the tyre that meets the road is not the same – i.e it is changing every week or so. Remember: do this ONLY if the parking area is perfectly flat.
And, as mentioned earlier, tyres with normal running pressure, on cars that are not moving, can deteriorate soon. The trick is to inflate it to about 40 Psi once a month. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using an air compressor. A useable one can be bought online for as low as Dh80. But, of course, you’ll have to connect the car battery for that, to use it as a source of power for the air compressor.
Other general maintenance
Apart from the above, one basic must-do is car cleaning. Get your car washed at least once a week. The dust that accumulates on cars here impacts the paint in the long term, apart form making vehicles look bad. A bigger concern is bird droppings, which are quite acidic and can seriously damage your car’s paint work. A car wash or simple cleaning with wet cloth at least once a week can save you loads of headache.
Keeping fluids topped up is key for the well-being of your engine. Most of this is simple enough to do at home. You could buy a bottle of recommended coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid and top them up in the respective reservoirs as and when the levels go below the marker point in these reservoirs. Even an engine oil change and oil filter change is doable in limited space and there are a lot of online videos that teach you how to. It is fairly simple. For, transmission oil and filter change, you’ll probably need to visit a service centre.