[This is a sponsored article with Castrol.]
With all the lockdown and the seemingly endless pandemic, I haven’t come out much. Not to mention that my car has been at home, mostly neglected, for 17 months. And I’m pretty sure he’s making a noise he’s not supposed to.
With #cuticutiMalaysia finally open to us, I now realize the daunting task ahead of me: making sure my car actually works. What I didn’t realize is that not driving my car regularly can lead to huge problems. Some of the following points come from our own real life experiences that we now had to deal with when we re-driven regularly.
Here’s a quick checklist of things you should be looking at before you hit the road (and how to fix them):
1. Check if your battery is still alive
It may come as a surprise, but your car still “drives” even when you are not driving it. Just like your laptop or smartphone, your car battery is always on.
On top of that, power-hungry devices left plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter port slowly seep in too.
If you’ve just checked and your battery is dead, you have two options:
a) Find a car battery delivery service
Car battery delivery services are widely available online, most with the promise of 30-minute delivery. Some options include Carput, TukarBateri, and Century Battery.
b) Start your car and go to your local workshop
If you have access to cables, a battery, and gloves, quickly starting your vehicle is a great option. Here is AutoBuzz.my’s quick and easy-to-follow video on how to do it safely.
Advice: If you know you won’t be driving your car for a few weeks, put your vehicle on a trickle charger. These chargers continue to power a car battery even when the vehicle is not in use.
2. Take a closer look at your tires
Most often I wake up in the morning to find that my hair is flat on the side where I slept. Cars do the same thing when left in one place for long periods of time. They develop flats when you are not driving.
Tires can lose pressure when seated, about one to two PSI per month. A quick walk around the block once a week will help avoid this problem.
Before going on a trip, use a tire pressure gauge to check the pressure. If it’s lower than expected, make a quick stop at your local workshop or gas station before you walk away.
Advice: You don’t have to worry about going to the gas station to get some air when you have a portable compressor at home.
3. Check the oil and water levels in your car.
Engine oil naturally degrades over time as water evaporates. When you do not replace it regularly, it can lead to premature engine wear or permanent damage.
Castrol MAGNATEC engine oil is specially formulated to adhere to critical engine parts and reduce engine wear. It provides non-stop protection. Over time, anticorrosive additives break down as contaminants and moisture build up.
Vehicles that remain unused for long periods of time are particularly vulnerable to engine moisture as they do not produce the heat of normal operation responsible for moisture evaporation and condensation. This is why you should drive your car for 20 to 30 minutes once a week, in addition to changing your oil regularly.
4. Examine the surfaces of your car’s interior
In Malaysia, we are no strangers to humidity, of which mold is an unfortunate by-product.
Cars covered in leather, fabric and even vinyl can experience this problem. A quick fix is that you can send your car in for a wash and vacuum, but note that mold can come back if the car is left unused.
For a simple solution at home, you can do the following with common household ingredients:
a) Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar
b) Spray and saturate the affected areas
c) Brush aggressively
d) Air and dry in the sun
5. Take note of your rubber gaskets.
With Malaysian weather it would be a nightmare for your air conditioning seals to dry out.
You see, refrigerant is a pressurized gas that allows your air conditioner to cool the air. If it gets too low, the air conditioning will stop blowing fresh air.
The coolant does not wear out (like your car uses gasoline) or does not wear out and needs to be replaced (like your engine oil). So if the refrigerant level is low, there is only one possible reason: it has leaked.
Automatic air conditioning systems often contain many rubber components and seals. And with the air conditioning system inactive for a while, the rubber can crack and allow refrigerant to escape.
Your door seals can also suffer the same fate, especially if your car is not regularly parked in a shaded area. And with the rainy season coming at the end of the year, this is another problem that you would like to fix soon, or the leaks could also contribute to the mold problem mentioned above.
Advice: Avoid the problem next time by turning on the vehicle and the air conditioning for ten minutes every now and then.
6. Make sure your brakes are working.
When you haven’t driven for a while, two things should happen before you zoom.
First check the brake fluid level in your vehicle. You should visually check the fluid level against the marks on the translucent brake fluid reservoir. Remove the cap from the reservoir and note whether the fluid looks healthy or dirty.
If your brake fluid is low, it could indicate a problem with your brakes that will need urgent repair. Dirty brake fluid can indicate water contamination; the vehicle’s brake system will need to be flushed at your local workshop.
If your brake fluid level is okay, the next thing to do is apply the brakes.
The brake discs and drums are made of raw steel, with little anti-corrosion treatment. When sitting in humid environments, a thin layer of rust will start to develop on their surfaces.
When you go on a trip, take the time to gently press and release the brake pedal a few times before you hit the road. Then, with a window or two down, listen.
If you hear a light to moderate scratching noise coming from the brakes, avoid panic stops and brake gently during the first stops.
This will allow the brake pads to wear out of the rust buildup without overheating the rotors and will reduce the chance of brake vibration that will require rotor replacement to heal.
Advice: If you plan to leave your car untouched for a while, become a regular user of parking brakes, exercising these systems is essential to prevent them from seizing up.
As someone who really looks forward to their next road trip, many of these tips are shared with my colleagues. We’ve all run into car issues over the past few weeks when they’ve been using them for the first time in a long time (all images in this article courtesy of the Vulcan Post team).
These issues can be easily identified and then fixed with the right tools and professional advice, so be careful when we hit the road again.
- Learn more about Castrol MAGNATEC engine oil here.
Our sincere thanks to