How to take care of your car during lockdown



Staying at home means your car might not get to stretch its legs, so here’s how to take care of your ride while adhering to the circuit breaker rules in Singapore


Main photo credit: Shyamal/Wikimedia Commons

SINGAPORE

It’s been over a month since Singapore entered into a soft lockdown, or ‘circuit breaker’ as our Prime Minister terms it. Movement has generally been restricted, and everyone has been encouraged to stay at home to minimise the spread of the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease that has wreaked havoc throughout the world.

That also means that many of our cars have seen little use, and more than likely are just sitting around parked at home. That’s generally not ideal, as cars, like people, need to be worked in order to stay in good condition. A car that sits idle for long periods will end up deteriorating and causing problems when you eventually start it up again.

And keeping your car in proper shape is even more paramount during this circuit breaker period, especially given that some car workshops here have been ordered to close and can no longer perform non-urgent services.

If you’re driving out once a week for groceries or food, your car will probably be fine, but even then you may encounter rough running or potential problems. So here’s a few simple things you can do to keep your car in shape.

Note: Please remember to wear a mask and follow all safe distancing rules when you’re outdoors during this period.

Go for a drive

You’re still allowed to go out to get essentials like food and groceries, so you can drive out when you do so. Give the car time to get up to temperature, and drive it for a fair amount of distance and speed just to make sure that everything’s running properly.

Of course we can’t actually encourage you to drive around for no reason at all, but if you might need to pick up groceries a little further away and take all the necessary precautions.

The problem here is short distances – short distances at low speed (city driving) is the worst condition for combustion engines, so if you’re doing far less mileage you may want to turn off ‘eco’ mode and start-stop to let the engine run a little more.

If you have a diesel-powered vehicle, the diesel particulate filter (DPF) needs to be cleaned, and this takes place when the engine is running at a certain amount of revs for a period of time.

So going for a drive over a reasonable distance will help with this DPF cleaning process, otherwise the filter will end up clogged and you’ll find yourself with an expensive repair bill.

Check your tyres

Photo credit: Pujanak/Wikimedia Commons

This is something you should do on a regular basis anyway, since the round black things attached to the wheels are the most important performance factor in any car, bar none.

While a few weeks is probably not long enough for it to happen, when a car sits stationary for an extended period of time, the tyres will start to develop flat spots.

This is because only one area of the rubber tyre is being pressed against the ground for an abnormally long duration. A flat spot can generally correct itself after driving for a few kilometres, but if your car has not moved for a lengthy period and if the tyres are old, the flat spot can become permanent and disrupt your car’s drivability.

Before you start driving your car again after a long period of inactivity, check the tyre pressure to ensure that it is at the correct level. If the tyre seems under-inflated, head to the nearest petrol station to fill it up, as under-inflated tyres can lead to premature wear and eventually tyre failure. Don’t know what the right pressure is? Most cars have it listed on a sticker in the fuel-filler hatch or on the driver’s side door frame.

Check the fuel

Photo credit: Karen Arnold/Public Domain

Here’s something you may not know: fuel has an expiry date and it can go bad. But because we’re constantly using it, that fact is generally irrelevant to us under normal circumstances. However, if your car has been sitting around idle for a while, the fuel that’s been sitting in the tank may not be of optimum quality when you start the car up again.

The ideal solution is of course to keep using it, but if that’s not entirely possible, fill your tank up to the brim to ensure that air doesn’t build up in the tank and degrade the fuel. In any case, fuel can last for a few months when not in use, but taking an occasional drive would still be ideal just to ensure that everything in the fuel system, from the fuel pump to the injectors and more, are running well.

Keep it under wraps

Photo credit: Andrew Bone/Wikimedia Commons

Singapore’s climate can be incredibly tough on cars, with the blazing sun capable of doing substantial damage to a car’s paintwork if left exposed for a period of time. If you have access to a sheltered spot to park, like a multi-storey carpark, then you should probably make good use of it.

If you are unable to park in a sheltered area however, it may be wise to invest in a car cover. It will go some way towards protecting your car from the elements. Be sure to check it regularly though, to prevent dirt, leaves, and moisture – and subsequently animals – from secretly building up beneath the covers.

about the author

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Ben Chia
CarBuyer's senior staff writer went out to explore the Great Big World, including a stint working in China (despite his limited Mandarin). Now he's back, ready to foist upon you his takes on everything good and wonderful about the automotive world.