Auto maintenance expert says 20-minute weekly trip could keep your vehicle running smoothly
Now that Canadians have to follow physical distance guidelines, many stay at home as much as possible, which means they drive their vehicles much less often. This is good news for the fight against the spread of COVID-19, but not as much for vehicles.
“The vehicles are designed and manufactured to be driven. Leaving them parked for extended periods of time can cause a variety of problems, ”said Bryon Stremler, National Director, Product Quality and Service Support at Toyota Canada.
Fortunately, he adds, owners can take a few simple steps to keep their vehicle in good working order.
“To start, you have to drive the vehicle for 20 minutes once a week,” he explains. “It helps preserve the battery charge, lubricate several essential systems, and protect moving parts from corrosion.”
If you are only going out for essential short trips, you can still incorporate this 20-minute driving session, for example, using an indirect route to the grocery store. Provided that a leg of your journey lasts at least 20 minutes, it will be good for your vehicle.
Here are some of the specific components that will benefit from this weekly 20-minute ride recommended by Mr. Stremler:
- The battery: all batteries discharge slightly when the vehicle is stationary. If the vehicle is left standing for too long, the battery will not be able to start the engine. Stremler says the 20-minute weekly trip is enough to sufficiently recharge a battery that is in good condition.
- Tires: If you leave a vehicle stationary for too long, flats will form on its tires, says Stremler, which will cause unpleasant vibrations while driving. A flat surface normally disappears during a weekly 20-minute trip, but if the vehicle is left stationary for too long, the flat surfaces may become permanent, and the tires will have to be replaced. In addition, the tires lose their inflation pressure and must be checked regularly, regardless of how often the vehicle is driven.
- Brakes: According to Stremler, if the brake components are not used regularly, this can lead to problems ranging from corrosion on the discs to seizure of the calipers. The weekly 20-minute trip will help keep these essential safety components in good working order.
- Rubber components: drive belts and other rubber components can dry out and crack or break if left stationary, adds our specialist. The weekly 20-minute ride will help preserve the flexibility of these components.
- The windshield wiper system: Mr. Stremler stressed the importance of maintaining the windshield washer system and the windshield wipers. During the 20-minute weekly trip, operate the windshield washer and wipers. If your vehicle has a rear wiper, activate it too. But do not operate the wipers on a dry surface: this can damage the brushes, the glass or both.
Here are some other tips from Bryon Stremler from Toyota Canada if you leave your vehicle parked more often than usual:
- Do not let the engine idle: our expert points out that simply starting the engine and letting it idle is not enough. Idling does not maintain proper operation and lubrication of moving parts. (In addition, idling produces excessive amounts of exhaust emissions that can be hazardous to health. Never allow an engine to idle in a closed or poorly ventilated location, such as a garage.)
- Gasoline: Stremler points out that many people don’t realize that gasoline has a useful life, especially inferior gasoline, which can degrade in as little as three months. Due to the chemical composition of gasoline, its lighter and more volatile ingredients evaporate over time. If the fuel degrades, it can cause a variety of problems, including hesitation, stalling, lack of power, or the inability to start the engine. When you leave a vehicle parked for a long time, moisture can build up in its fuel tank, and the resulting water will mix with gasoline. This can prevent moisture buildup by keeping the tank full. If a vehicle is to remain stationary for a long time with a full tank, M. Stremler suggests adding a water-removing additive when refueling to help remove moisture from the fuel system, clean the system, and stabilize the fuel. This type of additive is found at dealerships, garages or auto parts stores.
- The exterior finish: even when a vehicle remains stationary, its exterior is exposed to many elements that can damage it. Unless stored indoors, away from these elements, Mr. Stremler recommends regular cleaning. In particular, do not forget to clean the exterior of the vehicle in the presence of sap residue, dead insects or bird droppings on the painted surface.
- Animals: a parked vehicle can become a refuge for rodents. To reduce the risk at this level, Stremler suggests avoiding parking on the lawn or near bushes. Instead, try to park the vehicle on gravel or a paved surface – but not near the garbage cans. Look for signs of rodents, including excrement or gnawed paper. If the vehicle is left stationary for a long time, Mr. Stremler suggests tapping the hood before starting the engine to scare any animals that may have taken refuge in the engine compartment.
Finally, don’t forget regular maintenance. If you’re not sure how to keep your vehicle in good condition, start by consulting your owner’s manual and the experts at your local dealer.
“Vehicles require regular maintenance, even if you don’t drive them,” says Stremler, noting that the maintenance interval for all Toyota and Lexus models is 8,000 kilometers or six months, depending on the first possibility.
Since many dealerships have changed their procedures to ensure compliance with physical distance guidelines and adopted other health-related measures, it is best for motorists to contact their local dealership before going to visit to discuss their needs.