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Preparing your car for travel in the age of COVID-19

Casey Williams, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Every fall, after that one last drive, my old Corvette goes into the garage for its long winter nap. I rarely intend for it to be the last drive, but the weather changes, battery dies, and it's in for the count. A similar phenomenon happened during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Cars were parked much longer than planned. With restrictions easing, it's time to reawaken our rides and prepare them for the new normal in summer vacations.

AAA predicts more of a desire to travel to U.S. destinations, mostly local and regional attractions, and a renewal of the great American road trip.

"Americans are taking that first step toward their next journey from the comfort of their home by researching vacation opportunities and talking with travel agents," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. "We are seeing that Americans are showing a preference and inspiration to explore all that our country has to offer as soon as it is safe to travel."

While we desire a summer vacation, our cars may still be dormant. It's time to wake them up!

THE AWAKENING

Owners of classic cars use trickle chargers and jack stands to keep their steeds in good trim, but getting those probably wasn't top of mind when your vehicular life came to a halt. Beyond tires and batteries, any number of other components may not be at their best, so let's do a walk-around of your vehicle. In a March 2018 story for Hagerty.com, Elena Scherr lays out the recommissioning activities.

 

--Critters: Check for signs of critters. Chipmunks and mice especially like living in immobile automobiles. The tray at the base of your windshield is especially enticing. Look inside to make sure no furry or feathered friends have taken up residence. While there, pop the hood. Check for mouse nests, spider webs or chipmunk nuts in the engine bay. Clean that stuff out.

--Quick Check: Check underneath for drips, leaks, and debris. Is there air in the tires? Check fluid levels for oil, coolant, brakes, transmission and windshield washer. Consult your owner's manual to locate the reservoirs. Take a quick look at belts, hoses, and wiper blades too.

--Start Up: Assuming everything checks out, crank it over. If you're lucky, the car will start. But, the battery may be dead. It's best to use a proper charger, but you can jump it. Just don't do it often because it can damage the battery. If working from home indefinitely, buy a trickle charger to maintain your battery.

Go for a quick drive around the block. Check turn signals and lights before leaving. Brakes and clutches can get sticky when sitting, but should smooth out quickly. Watch the thermostat to make sure the vehicle doesn't overheat. Flat spots on the tires will vibrate like square wheels, but should lessen as tires warm.

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