Not Driving Lately? Your Car Still Needs Attention

Many of us are staying home and off the road during the shelter-in-place order. We asked AAA for advice regarding keeping your motor running, even when it's spending a lot of time idle.

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Stay-at-home orders mean Bay Area neighborhoods are packed with cars that are just sitting there, parked, every day -- for weeks now.

But some drivers will find unexpected problems the next time they need to hit the road, from bad brakes to dead batteries.

Cars are basically rolling computers these days. Some consume a surprising amount of battery power while parked. Brakes can start to rust without regular use, especially with our relatively damp weather in recent weeks.

Sergio Avila with AAA of Northern California tells us there's an easy way to prevent many of these issues.

“Try to drive your car at least once a week for about 30 minutes," Avila said. "If you’re headed to the grocery store, maybe you head to the grocery store that’s a little further than the one that you’d typically visit, just to get those extra miles on your car."

The advice is a little different for owners of electric vehicles (EVs). It's very important to closely follow the auto manufacturer's guidelines for charging and long-term storage. Failure to do so can result in a loss of battery life or range, or even "brick" the battery, leading to costly repairs. It's especially critical that you don't let the battery completely "discharge", or drain to zero.

The U.S. Department of Energy says your owner's manual will have plenty of details on ideal charge levels. Some EVs may have a "sleep mode" that reduces power consumption when the car is idle for a long time. Again, check your owner's manual.

Another reminder: don't forget about keeping an eye on your wheels where the rubber meets the road.

"Check your tire pressure," Avila said. "You can get damage on your tires if you're not moving the vehicle and the tire pressure is not correct."

If you find yourself in need of routine maintenance, like an oil change, or if you encounter a more immediate mechanical issue, there's good news: mechanics are still showing up for work.

"Auto repair shops are considered an essential service, so they are open for business," Avila said. "If you have an issue with your vehicle and you need to get it back on the road, getting it to a trusted mechanic or a AAA repair shop is obviously a good place to start."

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