Get that idle car back on the road in tip-top shape


car maintenance - man washing the tires

If you’re among the millions who have been hunkered down in your home to help flatten the coronavirus curve, your car probably hasn’t been getting too much use. But now as many states are beginning to reopen and ease restrictions on stay-at-home orders, it’s time to show your car a little love. And even though many restrictions may be lifted, it’s likely we’ll be seeing a “new normal” so you may still be keeping a little closer to home this year than in other summer seasons. If so, AAA offers some great tips for keeping your car maintained during a driving hiatus.

While a few of the tips might be well known – taking the car for a spin each week and keeping it clean and maintained – others may be things you would not think of unless you are accustomed to storing a car seasonally. Here’s one you might not think about – and it can happen even if your car is stored in a garage:

Depending where you park, there may be mice or other critters that want to call your vehicle home. These rodents can chew on wires and cause thousands of dollars of damage, make nests in your filters and cause other messes. I’ve even had one set up shop in my glove compartment! There are a variety of sprays and granules on the market to deter these animals. Some have the scent of a predator and others smell like mint — a scent rodents don’t like.

There are other good tips about lubricating locks and hinges, adding a gas stabilizer to your tank, and more.

Consumer Reports says that cars do not like to sit idle, and cite risks such as the battery losing charge, tires gaining flat spots, rubber components such as belts and wipers drying out, as well as the critter problem. They also have an excellent guide to Car Care and Maintenance During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

But don’t stop there – it’s time for a thorough spring maintenance. Whether you bring your car to a mechanic or are a do-it-yourselfer, here’s a spring car maintenance checklist:

  • Give your vehicle a good exterior cleaning, including a fresh wax.
  • Clean the interior thoroughly. To disinfect and deep-clean, consider a detailing or a steam cleaning.
  • Change your oil and oil filter.
  • Check and replenish fluids.
  • Inspect wiper blades and replace if needed. Refill your wiper fluid.
  • Test your battery.
  • Check and rotate your tires. Check the tire treads and pressure.
  • Check and clean your lights and mirrors.
  • Check filters, belts, hoses.
  • Check alignment and suspension.
  • Fix any winter body or windshield dings or damage.

And if you have a motorcycle, May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Give your wheels a good checkup too – see our post on Motorcycle Mania: Your spring guide to insurance, safety, training, laws and more.

Check your tires: It’s National Tire Safety Week


This week is National Tire Safety Week — and before you embark on all those summer day trips and vacations, it’s the perfect time to check your tires to be sure they are roadworthy and will offer you the best driving security.

According to the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, tires are safer than ever due to new tire technologies. Government data shows that tire-related crashes decreased by more than 50 percent between 2007 and 2010. Better technologies have led to reduced rolling resistance and better stability and traction in wet road conditions. Plus, “run flat tires” can keep working for up to 50 miles after a puncture.

But to keep tires at peak performance, there are a few best practices, summarized in an excerpt from a tire fact sheet infographic provided by the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, which offers more information on tire safety.

For more on the care, maintenance and safety of your tires:

How old are your tires? – How to check the age

Tire rating lookup – good to check before you buy new tires.

Tirewise – everything you need to know about buying and maintaining tires.

The life of a tire – We posted this clip a few years back, but think it is well worth recycling – it’s only about 90 seconds, and gives a good overview of what you need to know.

How to test and maintain your tires – Although this prior post focused on prepping tires for winter, there’s a handy infographic that sums up the essentials of what you need to know about taking care of your tires.

Does your new car have a spare tire? Don’t count on it! – Did you know that more than a third of all new car models are being sold without a spare tire? You don’t want to be caught short on the highway. Buyer beware: If you are in the market for a new vehicle, check to see if a spare tire is included. If not, a tire may be available as a purchase option.

It’s Tire Safety Week: take the 25 cent safety challenge


June 7-13 is Tire Safety Month, an event organized by the Rubber Manufacturers Association to promote safety and to raise awareness about proper maintenance and care. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 600 deaths and 33,000 injuries per year are due to under inflated tires. And in addition to being a safety hazard, tires that are improperly inflated also lower a car’s fuel efficiency. Consumer Reports offers tips on tire maintenance.
Conventional wisdom has been to use a penny to measure tire tread for safety, but Consumer Reports notes that based on driving performance in a battery of tests, using a quarter would be a safer gauge:

“It has long been the standard that tires are worn out when their tread depth reaches 1/16 inch (or 2/32 inch as found on standardized tread-depth gauges). The easiest way to measure this, if you didn’t have a gauge, was to hold a penny upside down in the tread. If the top of Lincoln’s head was visible, you needed new tires. See test results of foul weather comprises with worn-out tires.
But CR’s tests show that using a penny is too stingy and that most consumers should consider replacing their tires when the tread reaches 1/8 inch.”

Experts at the Tire Rack, an independent tire tester, suggest that measuring tire tread via the quarter method can improve braking distances up to 24 percent. See a quick tutorial for using coins to measure tire depth.
In addition to maintaining good tire pressure and tread, the age of your tires can be a safety factor – rubber breaks down over time. Many safety experts suggest replacing tires that are more than 5 years old to avoid the potential for a blowout or tread separation.