Stuck indoors? Here’s how to keep your car healthy when you’re not using it

Car-owner tips for sheltering in place: get it out of the driveway once a week and more
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

While we cannot stress enough how important it is to stay at home during this pandemic, we found a glimmer of light: if you have a car, you may be able to ever-so-briefly escape the confines of your house - as long as you stay inside your car. As it turns out, as important as it is to stretch your legs, it’s equally important to stretch your car’s legs, too. Here are four tips to keep your car in tip-top shape while you’re in isolation.

Whether you are under stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders or not, doctors and other experts recommend that you stay far away from people who don’t live with you, even friends and family. This isn’t just for your safety, but for the safety of others - you may be lucky enough to be asymptomatic if you have contracted COVID-19, but that doesn't mean that you can’t pass it on. 

To help you stay safe and keep your automobile healthy, here are some tips for maintaining your car during the lockdown.

Don't have a car? There may be good reason to buy one now: cheaper auto loans make for a good deal for potential car owners. 

1. Turn on your car's motor at least once a week

Even if you have nowhere to go and have enough of the essentials to last you several weeks at a time, consider turning on your car’s motor at least once a week and driving around for twenty minutes. This is very important to do to keep your car in good shape by ensuring that your 12V battery won’t die. Similarly and simply put, driving around for this amount of time will keep all the fluids moving throughout the car’s system, keeping it well-lubricated and keeping the rust at bay. If you know anything about cars, this is a good reminder to drive around the neighborhood for 20 minutes (and don’t forget to stay inside your car and continue to distance yourself). If you’re just learning about cars, a way to think about your vehicle is likening it to a human body. Without movement, your muscles would atrophy and your systems would not function properly - it’s the same with your car!

2. Deep clean you car's interior

Stuck inside? That doesn’t mean that you have to stop moving. You don’t have to go anywhere, and you can exercise right in your driveway if you don’t have one of the best home gyms or best exercise bikes. And the best part? You’ll be tackling a chore you’ve probably been putting off for a while. 

Deep clean your car. It’s now more important than ever. 

We spend a lot of time in our cars, so much so that they can become second homes. That means that there’s everything from food crumbs to toys to other personal belongings sitting in there. Take this time to sort out your stuff and figure out what can stay and what can go. Vacuum the interior and disinfect all surfaces - you never know what’s teaming on commonly touched surfaces like handles and the steering wheel. All you need is a microfiber cloth, a spray bottle, and a solution of 70% solution of isopropyl alcohol (more commonly known as rubbing alcohol) with water. This should be safe for almost all types of fabric that can be found in a car - just remember to wash the cloth after using it. 

This is especially important if you plan on taking your car to the mechanic (in most places deemed an essential service) or have just come back from getting your car fixed. 

3. Make space

 While things are looking up in many parts of the country, you still want to ensure that you limit exposure to the virus, which means spending the least amount of time possible in places where there’s a high amount of human traffic like grocery stores. To ensure that you can shop efficiently and reduce the amount of times you go out for food, make space in your car. Remove any items that aren’t essential on these trips. If you’re worried about what’s to come, it’s okay to make space for emergency provisions, like having a box of shelf-stable goods in the truck, or a first aid kit.  

4. Prepare your car for long-term storage

Let’s face it: you probably won’t be using your car for a while, especially if you are working from home for the time being and won’t be shuttling kids around until the fall, if all goes well. To keep it at the ready, it’s not just the interior that you need to pay attention to, but the exterior as well. Cleaning is essential, and you can keep it simple by taking a hose and washing down your car to keep it nice-looking and shiny. This will preserve the paint job, especially after a long winter for salt, snow, and grime coating it. 

To take it a step further, make sure your car is ready to go at a moment’s notice: change the oil, fill the tank up with gas, and put a weatherproofing cover over your vehicle if you plan on storing it outside. 

Sophie Kaemmerle

Sophie is a born and bred New Yorker who, paradoxically, loves being in the great outdoors. Her favorite pastimes include running, baking, and writing. She also spends her time volunteering and leading volunteer projects with the Good+ Foundation and Achilles International when not providing information on the best deals, products, and services on the internet to TopTenReviews readers.