The Lions Gate Bridge empty of traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, April 2020. With fewer people driving during the pandemic, car battery issues are increasing. (Photo credit: BCAA)

Keep sidelined vehicles ready to run with a few easy steps

With many cars parked during COVID-19, BCAA reports more calls about dead batteries

With parents not doing the daily school run, many people working from home, and many more people limiting their car trips, a lot of drivers are finding that their vehicle’s get up and go has got up and went when it comes time to use it again after a long period of inaction.

If a vehicle is not being driven regularly, its battery can deteriorate over time. This is especially true if your battery is already on its last legs or if you have a feature-packed newer vehicle, and problems can start after a relatively short period of sitting idle. BCAA Road Assist, which is operating as an essential service, reported a 50 per cent spike in battery replacements in April 2020.

It isn’t just a dead battery that can affect your vehicle when it isn’t being used regularly. Staying parked for longer periods can also cause tires to deflate to unsafe levels. To keep your car running when you’re not driving it as frequently, here are some tips from BCAA’s Automotive Manager, Josh Smythe.

Maintain your battery: The usual advice for keeping your battery at its best is to drive your vehicle for at least one hour per week, but that doesn’t necessarily fit with today’s unusual times, where people are being encouraged to avoid unnecessary car journeys. Smythe recommends that drivers make the most out of essential trips by choosing a slightly longer route than usual or driving to a store that’s a little further away. Even driving your car for just 20 or 30 minutes a week helps. You could also consider a battery maintainer to keep your battery charged. These are wired into your vehicle’s battery and plugged into the wall.

Keep your tires in good shape: Tires can deflate over time if a vehicle is left sitting too long. While vehicles not in use for many months can be put up on cinder blocks to ease tire pressure, Smythe doesn’t recommend that for shorter periods. Instead, he suggests that you keep an eye on tire pressure by doing regular walk-arounds of your vehicle to check each tire, and use a tire gauge if you have one. If you have a deflated tire, add air if you can, or change it before heading out for essential trips.

Other tips to keep your temporarily sidelined vehicle in good shape include cleaning the inside regularly to prevent odour and mould. Make sure the vehicle is well-sealed: close the windows and set the ventilation system to recirculated (not fresh) air, in order to prevent rodents from getting in.

Do not set the parking brake if you’re going to park your vehicle for more than 30 days. The pads or shoes can seize to the drum or the rotor and cause problems down the road when you move it. To prevent the vehicle from rolling away, chock the tires at the front and at the rear.

If your vehicle is usually insured for work or school driving, and you’re not doing either for the foreseeable future, or if you are normally a two-vehicle family with one of them sidelined, consider amending (not cancelling) your insurance until things get back to normal.

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